Sunday, November 4, 2007

Campton Cross Race

I arrived at Campton Park during the women’s race and got a chance to snap a few photos before registering. It was another beautiful day for a race. Temperatures were in the mid 50s and there was a fairly strong wind competing with full sunshine which kept things comfortable.

As soon as the women were finished, I jumped on the course for a lap to see what I was up against. In addition to the usual barriers and sharp turns, there was a small gully to ride through (similar to the one in the Carpentersville race), a short sand trap leading into a sharp left turn and something new for me to learn, an off-camber section. By the time I rode it, the earlier rides had worn a slight path and the grass had dried out which made it somewhat easier. Still, I was tentative through it and probably should doubled back to practice it a few more times. There was also a section through trees that was muddy and required hitting the right line where the mud was packed. If you miss this, the deeper mud on either side slows you down quite a bit. This leads into a section with four partially buried railroad ties. The first of these was high enough to require a bunny hop, but most riders rode around it cutting a narrow lane between the tie and the brush. I rode around it the first two laps, but did the bunny hop thing afterwards, only hitting it hard once (luckily no pinch flat). This saved me a little time as I had to slow a bit to hit the lane around it. The last two railroad ties were low enough to just ride over. This took you into a downhill and fast approach to the last barrier before the finish line.

The mens 1-2 began to line up and the 3s were right behind them. I snapped some shots of my teammates, registered, dropped off the camera at the car and put the number on my jersey. I used pins from a previous race and wondered what all the other racers do with their pins after racing. It seems wasteful to throw them out, so I have decided to hold on to them and either reuse or return them. Also, I am happy to relate, my number attaching skills are improving. I locked the car, stashed the key on a lanyard around my neck (has anyone ever fallen in a race and gotten strangled this way?) and took off to warm up.

With about 15 minutes to go, I headed over to the starting line. I adopted a new strategy this time and lined up in the second row. Similar to last week, the start leads into a sharp turn, although this one was more of a challenge. We go from grass to a 180 degree turn which hits a dirt walking path and goes back onto the grass. I knew that with at least 40 of us it would stack up here (experience has its benefits) so I made up my mind to start off as hard as I could to get through this without losing much time. This was probably my best strategy even if I had to go slow for a while to recover afterwards.

They called the start and I got through the first turn OK and began to settle in. My cross racing skills are improving, but I still have to work on my handling skills, especially around sharp turns and crossing gullies. These are costing me time and effort that I just can't afford to waste. I am very happy with how I handled all the barriers during this race. I did trip once, catching my foot on the barrier as I jumped over, but having my hands on the bike kept me from falling and I actually remounted without losing any time. A few times I entered the final barrier at faster than running speed and still was able to clear it and remount. I'm sure a video replay would look ugly, but I got the job done. I lost the most time when I hit the sand trap poorly and couldn't handle the sharp left turn, taking out a stake (sorry guys). I was also too cautious during the first two attempts at the off-camber section, but had it mastered after that.

Near the end of my second-to-last lap, I got passed by the leader which meant that the race was actually over for me. I still took another lap. Hey, it's good practice and I must be getting better, since there is no way I could have handled another lap at Jackson Park or Carpentersville. I hung around waiting for the results, and saw that I got 28th. Not as good as I had hoped, but I'm staying close to the top half.

While packing up I got into a conversation with another cat 4A racer that I recognized from a couple of other races. He advised me to try racing in the masters race earlier in the day to use as a warm up and preride. His thinking is that it is a good way to warm up, the experience on the course is invaluable and, if you don't race all out, you have enough time to eat afterwards and recover. I think I'm going to give this a try at the Lansing race in two weeks.

I got home, started unpacking and someone seemed happy to see me.

Either that, or I forgot to feed him this morning.

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