Monday, December 3, 2007

MRC Cross Race Report

In case you weren't aware, it was below freezing Sunday in Wrentham. Not below freezing "in the morning" or "in the evening," but rather the entire day. This is allegedly "real cross weather," and coincidentally happened to be the day that I agreed to help with timing and gain a better of understanding of what is required to be an official at one of these things. Oh, and there was also a race I had to do, but since the day started with 3 hours of standing around freezing, let's start with that.

Justin and I were the #2 timing crew for the Cat 4 and Cat 4 35+ races in the morning. Our duties consisted of writing down numbers for every lap (not just the last lap) and then doing numbers and times on the final lap. Our priority was a time for every finisher -- the other scorer did a number of every finisher and times when possible. Combine the sheets and you have all the data.

Certain officials couldn't actually be bothered to write down all the times that we took, which is why the 35+ guys don't all have times. This was fairly annoying since I know without a doubt we had all the data -- I'm guessing that once they got to the back half of the field, they transcribed only off the primary sheet and didn't cross reference with our times. Lame.

What did I learn from this experience? First of all, timing and scoring a cross race is pretty easy. If you're not an idiot and can stay focused, a team of two people can get the finish order for 50-60 people no problem, getting times "when possible." Second of all, timing and scoring a cross race is pretty thankless. Just because it's easy doesn't mean you shouldn't be incredibly grateful to the officials that do it for you, at least unless they screw it up.

So timing is easy, but that doesn't mean I'd want to try to do it without a safety net. A secondary person taking numbers is absolutely essential -- all it takes is one group finish to get dangerously close to overloading your mental capacity for storing/writing numbers. If you miss someone, you panic, and before you know it you missed 3 more. I only got to experience this on lap 1 or 2 because the fields spread out, but in a 80-100 person race I imagine the finish would be like that.

Oh and the number of people who pin their numbers upside down is ridiculous. I can understand pinning the wrong side, that's just getting bad info, but upside down? That's never going to be right.

Last timing tip -- you really don't have to yell your category, number, or lapped status at the officials as you cross the line. If they have their act together they know all that info, and if they don't, yelling it isn't going to help you. Popular phrases included "I'm lapped!!," "55+!," and "(racer number)."

Best two moments of the whole thing was a guy yelling "how many laps to go" at me as I stood next to a lap card, and some Tufts girls that thought standing on the finish line after the first 10 35+ guys finish would be a good idea, and then got bitchy when we told them to move, and then almost run over by a sprint finish when they took their sweet time moving.

Ok ok. My timing adventure is boring, I know. You know what else is kind of boring? Riding 10 laps solo. Which is just about how my race went. We lined up by number which put me second row, and I was puttering around trying to keep my jacket on till the last second like a true pro when I heard another guy on the line say "under 30 seconds? Really??" and start frantically taking clothes off. I joined him in this apparent race to nudity and timed it perfectly, finishing putting on my second light glove and clipping in one foot as the whistle went off.

So, I was physically prepared but not mentally prepared, so I immediately hemorrhaged about 8 spots as everyone else rode their bikes quickly. The first lap was pretty uneventful, MRC has got to be the hardest power course to pass on ever, so I just hung out in line. At some point I realized Jesse Keough (lil Jesse Keough!) was in front of me, which probably meant I needed to start racing my bike.

Each lap ended with what was, for me, "the giant log of extreme drama." Hopefully you know what I'm talking about, but in any case it was a single massive log about two feet high that was rideable to those with elite bike handling skills. Unfortunately people think I am in that group and thus there was lots of pressure (peer, crowd and internal) for me to ride it. Lap one I was in traffic so I elected to dismount, but as I do that Michael Cole rides it impeccably right in front of me and the crowd goes wild.

Lap two found me still on "Coley's" wheel with Cort right behind me, having thankfully overtaken lil' Jesse and now only being beaten by fully grown humans. I spent the whole straightaway up to the log pep talking myself and then, before I could finish overthinking it Coley is jumping it... then I'm jumping it... then I'm over and I'm still on my bike! I have never been so relieved to live up to my stereotype in my life.

Meanwhile Cort called us a very inappropriate word as we started lap three because he's a jealous roadie. I was feeling disturbingly comfortable so I decided to pass Coley, which went fine, except that 20 seconds later Cort passed me and I became extremely uncomfortable. I held his wheel for a grand total of 50 yards and then it was my turn to be the jealous mountain biker as his roadie watts blew me away. Thus began my solo adventure -- on lap 2.5 of 10.

The gap to Cort went up quickly and I knew I wasn't catching him. Behind me Coley crashed and then stabilized our gap at 20 seconds or so. There was one guy in front of me whom I was gradually, oh so gradually, reeling in -- right up until lap 6 when the gap started going the other way. I really wasn't within ten seconds of anyone for a solid 45 minutes.

But there WAS some excitement each lap, because once I had ridden the log once the crowd wanted to see it every lap. I was not the only guy riding it (I believe 4 of us -- Thom, Coley, a Devo kid and myself were doing it every lap) so there was big pressure to keep hitting it. My 2nd and 3rd trips over it were successful, if not pretty, but then on lap five I choked SO DAMN HARD with the whole crowd watching.

I didn't crash. Crashing would have been cool. What I did instead was lock up the brakes at the last second when I lost my focus, skidding to a stop with my front wheel touching the log. The crowd jeered me, rightfully so, and I hung my head as I stepped over it and rode off.

Obviously the next lap was completely terrifying, having just failed, but the fans demanded a sacrifice so I sucked it up and rode it. I cased the back wheel so hard I dropped my chain and clipped out, but I didn't touch the ground so it still totally counts. MTB skills, baby! I believe this photo is from that lap -- and I feel compelled to point out that the ground is much lower on the entrance side than the exit side, it really was huge, I swear!

You can see my right foot is clipping out in fear... and who knows what my face is doing.

From there on out it was lonely and gradually more painful. My morning fueling, or lack thereof, reared its ugly head and I drifted inexorably toward bonky land. My legs were becoming totally useless for sustained efforts, and the course required many. I counted the laps and the gap behind me, and both were coming down.

The log got uglier and uglier as I became too tired to really huck the bike. I was sure I had knocked a wheel out of true, my brakes must be rubbing if I'm going this slow, right? Alas they were not, I was just toast. I had started out plenty warm but as my glycogen ran out, so did my circulation. By the final lap I was frigid.

I ended up 13th/20, a good 5.5 minutes back of the leaders, and my post race decision to pound a beer from the keg (instead of, I dunno, drinking something or eating something or getting out of icy, sweaty clothes) ended up making my stomach hurt for the better part of 3 hours after that. And to add insult to slow riding, someone spilled a beer on the jacket I tossed off on the start line, which then froze... and then thawed in the car while I was wearing it.


josh 12/03/2007 9:10 PM  

i personally liked your face on the other picture...nice ride. I didn't realize you were so close. In fact I didn't see you until basically the last lap....

Cathy 12/04/2007 7:23 AM  

Thanks for helping to score the race. Sadly, the women's 3/4 results are messed up AGAIN, and Julie is getting tired of everyone ASSUMING she came last... At some point though, the racers need to also take responsibility for ensuring that their results are correct before departing.

Tough job - thanks for helping out, and congrats on the race.

Colin R 12/04/2007 9:45 AM  

Cathy, drop me an email (colin.reuter@gmail) with the results errors and I'll fix them on crossresults.

For the record, I had nothing to do with timing the women's race! (Clearly that's the problem :) )

CCC 12/04/2007 9:52 AM  

Great write up, and great racing with you as always...

Jordan 12/04/2007 11:46 AM  

i think you mean l33t skillz...

Colin R 12/04/2007 11:54 AM  

jordan -- i've done some research on that subject and determined that it is, in fact, not possible to have "1337 skillz" while wearing lycra. "1337 h4x" are also out of the question.

Brian 12/04/2007 11:59 AM  

I bet everyone wants a pair of those Salomon shoe covers...

G-ride 12/04/2007 1:10 PM  

glad you did the scoring thing. there is sooo much more involved with officiating/scoring then getting the numbers as people cross the line on the last lap. Its a great perspective 99% of the riders never get, leading to behavior by racers and officials that the other side finds offensive. Upside down numbers and people standing at the finish (or in FRONT of the camera) are good examples. And wear your damn helmet.

Anyway, just wanted to say good for you. Oh, and the invasion has begun. Now that I have successfully taken over gewillis blog, yours is next to be "annexed".

Think of gewilli as Poland, making you Denmark and/or Norway. Your choice.


Colin R 12/04/2007 1:14 PM  

"it's easy to stop the wehrmacht when you have a delete button."

g-ride - yes, people do have a funny obsession with talking to the officials during the final lap while blocking their view of oncoming riders.

and another thing -- my god, the cat 4 masters 35+ guys FLOODED through the finish line on their preride lap when half of the cat 4 field was still racing. it was ridiculous. no wonder racers get yelled at.

brian -- those salomon booties are so much better than most cycling shoe covers because they leave most of the tread and the toe spikes exposed, since they have to work with bindings. so yeah, they owns.

gewilli 12/04/2007 3:15 PM  

looking at results, and hearing about the cross stuff in portland...

new england is getting short changed...
everyone else seems to get lap time numbers and all kinds a good info...

we're usually lucky to get time raced... # of laps? better have a good memory for that sort of thing...

thanks for timing and all that...

did ya see:

G-ride 12/04/2007 3:47 PM  

they have their collective shite together out there. no doubt cause its OBRA, right? Of the people, for the people, and all that? Not that we dont have great officials here, it just seems like we dont have passionate cross officials here (this year). Al Atwood used to be the best till he went to promotions.

Camera is really key for consistent times. When I score, I usually only hit milestone/group times as well, every batch of riders. Oh well. In a road crit people care less about the time though.

Re: Delete button - careful you may give Ge some ideas. I meanwhile will have to work on some kind of hack or automated blitzkrieg system. Hmmm.

Colin R 12/04/2007 3:49 PM  

yeah, i've seen that. i don't want to sound like certain promoters you claim are tired and negative, but who would pay for that kind of timing?

i love cross as much as the next guy, if not more, but I wouldn't do that for free.

actually, that gives me an idea -- perhaps i'll post in depth in the offseason about this -- but what would YOU pay for timing that included everyone's lap time for every lap and some graphs to see how the race broken down? Posted to a say... Could be a great draw for a non-Verge race, right?

because like i said, i love cross -- but i c/wouldn't do it for free.

JimmE 12/04/2007 6:45 PM  

Nice job scoring and the write up is hilarious.

I really got a good beely augh out of the beer on the jacket comment. I was doing some rerg for the culb and saw your jacket under the table. A few minutes later I looked again and saw someones lager tipped over and sure enough it dribble all over your duds :(

I swear it wasn't me, but I thought to myself The guy who threw that coat there probably thought it was in a nice safe place? meanwhile somone gets a bit careless with the bevy and... well you know the rest.

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