It was a great day for a race. Mild temperatures and little to no wind was going to make finding excuses difficult. Paul and I arrived at the park just around 8:00, about two hours before our race (40+ Masters). We got the bikes off the car, put the wheels on the bikes, suited and helmeted up and took a few easy laps before registering. Easy, right? This was going to be a beast of a course (aren't they all?) It was very similar to the layout that I remembered from two years ago, but the organizers had added a few tricks. My favorite was using the baseball field to ride from home to second base (approximately). There was also three fence posts laid across a slight uphill spaced about two bikes lengths apart. This was easily ridable, but with low pressure in my clinchers, I thought it would be a pinch flat hazard, so I decided to run it. This also turned out to be faster for me. I guess the running I had been doing the last four weeks has helped.
Two laps, a couple of additional practice runs in the maze and it was time to register. Kudos to the Chicago Cross Cup for adding pre-registration this year which made the process fast and easy.
After some food and a few more laps, I notice that there's about 20 minutes to go before the race. I dismount the bike, feel a pull and hear a noise. I look at my saddle and half of it is pointing upwards. I try to fix it and get it snapped back on the rail and see the real problem:
It's either going to be a short day or a bad ride. I brought spare tubes, a spare tire, tools and Paul brought a pump. Who thinks to bring a spare saddle? Would the mechanics tent even have one? I headed over to the Get a Grip Cycles tent and asked Mike, who wrenched at my local bike shop for a couple of years. Jeff says: "Take mine, I'm not racing. Looks like it's the same one, too." This is Jeff who saved my day:
And damned if it wasn't the same saddle, just a much newer one! Comfortable too! Jeff and Mike take nearly no time to fix me up and I head over the the start. It's a big field and with the trip to the tent and the last minute repair, I'm near the back. Heck, I'm going to wind up there anyway so I might as well start here.
The start was, as usual, fast. We rounded the first turn into a wide grassy section and then we all bunched up rounding the fence leading to the infield. We entered the infield at less than a walking pace so I decided to dismount and run it. This was a good choice, passing a number of racers and getting back on the bike without incident. I did fall on the first lap, back by the water where the shade kept the grass moist and slippery (how did I miss this on the practice laps?) but what would a cross race be without getting some grass and dirt in the shift levers? On a later lap, I would pass a guy who must have brutally missed the entry turn into this section as he was furiously putting one of his shoes back on.
As the race wore on, my body was getting more and more beat up. Some of this was probably muscles that hadn't fully healed after a spectacular endo at Kettle Moraine a few weeks ago which, I'm sure, also didn't like being fallen upon in lap one. I did get into a reasonable rhythm as the race wore on. I wound up running the fence posts each lap to save my tubes and make up time. I also decided to ride the dirt infield after running it the second lap. I figured it was better to ride it and save energy rather than try to make up some time running it and tiring myself out. The rest of my skills seemed pretty good to me. I did make one poor remount, missing the sweet spot of the saddle by about 3 inches aft, but, luckily, no major damage done.
I finished. Tired, beaten up and happy to get the first cross race of the season under my belt. We did hang around about 45 minutes after the race. Time to change, eat and for me to get a few pictures. The results weren't posted yet, but I think I might have cracked the top 75th percentile.
Just two weeks to DeKalb!
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