Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cross Nationals' Growing Pains

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen Ryan Trebon get crashed out of the elite race at Nationals. The internet hullabaloo spawned by this video was impressive, but the conclusions drawn from it were few. This being America, everyone knows that the first thing you do when tragedy strikes is assign blame. The most common reaction was to blame the organizers for an unsafe course design, one that saw riders who lost control on a slippery corner head into oncoming traffic. This is a legitimate point, and I have no doubt that that particular course feature will be substantially different next year -- and hopefully local promoters, too, will think twice about separating traffic going opposite directions with a thin barrier of tape.

However, this being bike racing, not everyone was content to chalk it up to bad luck. After all, why post on the internet if you aren't going to bash someone you don't know? True to form, the internet cx pros quickly called out the rider who crashed Trebon for having no business being in a National Champs race, and for trying to stay upright when he went into the wrong lane instead of, I dunno, lying down and staying still so Treefarm could theoretically avoid him.

The thing is, he's not just some guy, he's some guy with a blog, so let's ask him what happened --

So my moment in the spotlight as I have an unfortunate meeting with "treefarm". I genuinely felt bad for dude, but not responsible for the event. Looking back at the two way traffic in that corner was a recipe for disaster. Lap one saw about 20 plus people blow through the tape. I got pushed wide lap two and caught a rut that threw me in his path. Sucks. Trebon is a class act and was beyond cool when we talked after the wreck in medical.

You'll note that his blog has comments turned off -- I'm pretty sure they were on a while ago, and I'm pretty sure I can guess why he had to turned them off.

Anyway, misplaced vitriol aside, let's answer the question, "Why is Steve Iles in a National Championship race?"

The answer is not "because he is a bad cross racer who has no sense of responsibility," no matter how much some people want it to be -- the answer is "because he is a cat 2 with a USCF license, and he's eligible to race." What else is he supposed to do, ride the B race? If he's between 23 and 29, the only national championship race he can do is the freaking elite race. This is why there were 170+ racers prereged for the elite men's race.

Those of you who were at Providence last year might remember just how comical the 170-ish racer B fields were. They were fun to watch, but does anyone think they were a true judge of talent? So why the heck does USACycling allow 170 people to line up for the national championship?

Because that's how they've always done it.

Cyclocross is blowing up as a sport and the governing body is struggling to get a hold of it. Things that used to work, like letting anyone who wanted to ride race the elite race, or running all the 50+ categories together, just don't cut it anymore. If you think this is an overreaction to a fluke event in the elite race, why don't you ask the 60+, 65+, and 70+ categories if they think USACycling has a handle on how to deal with the growth of cross. You know, the guys who all got pulled, some after one lap, in their national championship race.

It's time to start fixing cross nationals. It's all fun and games until someone KO's Trebon, or blocks Mahk on the last lap. Cross is only going to keep getting bigger. 200+ rider Elite and Masters fields are just around the corner.

Here's my first set of ideas for what needs to change. Please, by all means, set me straight in the comments.

Tighten the constraints on the Elite Men's race! The fact that random Cat 2's can race is ridiculous. A guy can get a cat 2 license by winning 3/4 races, or even 35+ 3/4 races -- does that guy have any business toeing the line and getting lapped four laps in? That guy is about as fast as me... so in other words, NO.

Let's start by adding some halfway legitimate qualifying requirements. How about Cat 1 or top 40 at a USGP? Picking a random USGP, 40th place puts you 6 minutes behind Trebon. If anything, top 40 is too generous, but it's a start.

At first glance this might appear to be unfair to people who don't live anywhere near a USGP stop, because it forces them to travel. And yet, these people are going to travel to Nationals. Is a second weekend of travel more than they can handle? If they're serious about cross, the answer is no. And if they aren't serious about cross... get the hell out of the elite race.

Get rid of the 30-34 National Championship. For all the flak mountain biking takes for the "everyone is a winner" age category structure, you don't see NORBA giving out stars and stripes to 30-34 expert age group winners -- but that's essentially what we're doing here. The notion that being over 30 is a handicap worthy of a separate category is absurd -- the best crosser in the world is 31.

The best 30-34 riders are elite caliber. Why give them a free practice race on the course, when a 29 year old won't get to hit it race pace until Sunday? Why give them a "national champion's jersey" when half the fast guys their age didn't even ride? The whole thing should just be scrapped. Use the extra hour to give the 60-64, 65-69, 70+ categories their own race, and you solve another problem.

Add a Cat 2 "B" Race and make the other two B races 3/4, instead of running 3 B races with age group divisions. The reason there are pack fodder clowns in the elite race is because they have nowhere else to ride if they're out of college. Give the Cat 2s between 22 and 35 a race, so they don't clog up the elite race.

Institute some age-group qualifying. This one is the stickiest problem, in my eyes. 170-ish fields, no UCI points -- the whole thing is a crapshoot, if you weren't in the top 10 last year or a medalist in a younger category, you get staged by registration order.

You might think this is segueing into a plug for points -- but it's not. Crossresults only thoroughly covers the MidAtlantic and New England -- I don't have the resources to manage the entire country. But you know who DOES?
USA Cycling.

I say it's time for the governing body to actually, you know, govern. Pick some local series, pick state champs, pick a points system, restrict age groups Cat 2 and up, I don't know what's best but we need to do SOMETHING -- something more than pulling half the field.

It sounds hard because it is hard. Cross is growing. We can deal with it, or we can wonder in 10 years why it collapsed under it own weight.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Trebon's Crash From Nationals

Josh passed this along, it only has 42 views right now but I assume the whole internet will see it in the next 24 hours.

Notice the rider who goes ever further into oncoming traffic right after the crash. I'll take "unsafe course design" for $100, Alex.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

CX Retrospective

Hey, it's that time of year where everyone talks about their cross season in the past tense. I'm joining the party, mainly because I made a post this summer about some goals and I basically got them all. Pretty easy to do when you make goals based on your current fitness + 5%, instead of current fitness + 50% or whatever other wishful thinking floats your boat.

Whatever, let's run down the goals list anyway.

1) Learn to cross mount -- this took me most of the season to get around to spending the required practice time to get it right, but I can do it now. It's not very good when I'm tired, and I stutter step when it's bumpy, but it's not like the giant, terrifying mental block it used to be. Good enough for me.

2) Win a non-Verge B race -- Done and done. This was definitely a case of plugging away and racing a lot until I got the right combination of course and attendance to get the win(s). Both of these courses rewarded Mtb skills and none of the super Cat 3 sandbaggers showed up, although Ben Coleman actually did race at Casco Bay, but it was back before he was dominating Cat 3.

3) Verge Top 15 -- This turned out to be pretty hard. I didn't get it done until the last weekend, when field sizes were down to 50ish and the courses were at their most technical. My number one goal for next season has got to be more steady-state power, it's just ridiculous how badly I get toasted when I can't get micro-rests on technical corners. Gloucesterx2, Chainbiter, Sterling were utterly terribly, my best finish was 38th among those 4. All power courses, or at least not the kind of technical course I like.

4) Upgrade to Cat 2 -- I have the points for this, but I didn't do it yet. Those last 2 top-15 Verge finishes really helped me feel like I can ride with the 2s on a normal course, so I'll upgrade for next season as long as nothing weird happens.

5) Beat Josh More Than He Beats Me -- Jamner made this one hard by dropping out or racing twice in the same day in more than half of our head-to-head meetings. Honestly I'm not sure if we ever had a fair matchup... but I think I get it by TKO if nothing else. Whatever, goals based on other people are kind of silly... just like this blog.

So, um, that's it. 5/5. Man, what's next?

It's hard to think rationally about next cross season, a lot can happen outside of my life on the bike between now and then... so I'll just say this -- at NBX I said to Thom P that if I ever won a Verge B race I'd buy a UCI license the next day and ride elites. My goal next year is to have to buy a UCI license to avoid becoming a liar.

Lots to do between now and then. Just like last year, I'm miles behind the rest of the nordic scene in terms of fitness, the difference is this year I don't really care that much. I've already done my time trying to be a fast skier and I'm not a fan of that work/reward equation. So I'll be doing the funnest ski races I can find and trying to not to get to worked up about getting beat down by 15 year olds.

Next spring will be just another MTB season, with the required mediocre expert results, but the big target is the Cascade 1200. 760 miles in 90 hours -- that's like 25% of my yearly mileage in 4 days!

Hey, sorry this post was so masturbatory. Might as well finish it off with some gratuitous dollar prime action.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Curse You, Rumsey!

So tonight I was kept inside by freezing rain in Albany. Not just kept inside, but kept inside a crappy hotel room. There was only one solution -- get a large cup of coffee and crank the nerd factor.

Two hours later, there's a new feature on called "Nemeses and Victims," which highlights the people you most often narrowly defeat or are narrowly defeated by.

I know it works because here's my list:

And every single name on the left side of that list makes me shake my fist and mutter, "I'll get you next year, [Racer Name]!"

And then I cry myself to sleep.

Monday, December 10, 2007

NBX Grand Prix Race Report

One final Verge race.

One last chance to make the top fifteen, one last chance to get a Verge point, once last change to be halfway respectable before packing it in for the season and admitting that all my best rides come in 3/4 races on MTB courses.

Oh, what's that? I got Verge points yesterday and there's another race next weekend? Well then, let's just go race bikes and have fun.

The NBX course was mostly the same as last year, lots of turns, two hard sand pits, and one fast road section. The one difference was that this year we staged at the bottom on the hill, not the top, so no crazy 30 mph downhill pack cornering was required. I like to think that I can handle myself pretty well in traffic for a MTB'er, but I sure didn't miss that part.

I lined up on the far right side in the third row, after getting stiffed on callups (come on man I had six Verge Points, surely that's top 15?!). The whistle blew, Brendan Cornett and Ryan Kelly let out some kind of crazy war cry, there was the sound of fifty cleats hitting fifty pedals, and we were off.

There was only one problem -- Brendan and Ryan finally pushed John Peterson over the edge, from the realm of "insanely fast" to just plain "insane."


Let me back it up... all the way to yesterday.

So yesterday I'm preriding with Ronnie down in the parking lot area, I'm not really paying attention because I think I've got a slow leak, and as I lazily swing around a 180 turn he T-bones me and I go sprawling onto the pavement, smashing my knees and elbows. What an asshole!

One problem. It wasn't a 180 degree turn, it was a 90 degree turn, so I rode straight into him. If I hadn't hit him I would've hit the tape 2 seconds later. Apparently, I'm the asshole.

In summary, you can get disoriented down in the parking lot, especially if it's your first lap of the course. Or if you're John Peterson, and you've just lost your f-ing mind.

Halfway down the start straightaway, Peterson is leading it out when he decides to take a left hand turn about 50 yards before the actual left hand turn, and for a split second we follow him...then the field erupts in a chorus of squealing brakes and screaming madmen. Only a few lucky souls are so far to the right that they don't have to lock 'em up. Four figures shoot out of the pack without touching their brakes -- Ryan Rumsey, Brendan Cornett, Josh Lipka... and me.

So I'd like to thank John Peterson for gifting me a 5 second head start on all but three guys. Maybe he was going for some kind of sandbagging degree of difficulty score.

The first lap was insane. I hit the sand in fourth and something goes wrong for Lipka on the remount... and now I'm in the 3rd...and I'm actually drafting Brendan Cornett.

I'm such a nobody that Richard Fries is temporarily left speechless as we come by the barriers, eventually recovering enough to call me "Rider 205." Apparently I'm not on his "Killer B's to Hype Up" cheat sheet.

The difficulty with the 3rd place start is that there's not many places to go but down. Even had I ridden flawlessly it would've been hard to stay on the podium -- and I was too shell shocked by my sudden fortune to ride flawlessly.

Mistake #1 -- not having the confidence to kill myself to stay on Brendan's wheel. I knew he was a better overall rider than me and I only made a token effort to stay in contact.

Mistake #2 -- Failing to jump on Josh Lipka's wheel after one lap. I knew he was coming and I knew he'd be ridiculously fast on the pavement. I looked back and rode easy, waiting for him, except I was going too slow and by the time the jam-related
power was coming by I needed a good 10 mph jump to get his draft. I missed it and he took 5 or 10 seconds in that section alone.

Mistake #3 -- Not providing Rudy with a red-carpeted tow to the front of the race. Apparently, that's how certain sandbagging dignitaries expect to be treated as they recover from a poor start. No, seriously. He (and Peterson) come up behind me as I'm tailgunning a group with Sean Mannion and Chris Bagg, and Awerbuch announces his presence by growling "If you don't hold that wheel I'll..." at me at we corner on to the pavement.

I'll let his words speak for themselves (if it's not the exact quote it's close, and yes, he did trail off instead of specifying the threat) but it's not like we know each other or something. Would you say that in a dead-serious tone to someone you didn't know in a bike race?

He and Peterson quickly blasted by on the road anyway, and I think Chris Bagg disappeared with them.

Much like the previous day, I had pretty good luck burying myself on the road to stay in the draft. Pete Smith gave me a good pull (after he realized how slowly I was going to pull) and I think Jeremy Dunn dragged me along for a bit as well. Somewhere along the line Isaac St Martin caught onto a group with me, Sean Mannion and Pete Smith and slowly worked his way through us and slightly off the front. This was yet another mistake on my part, recognizing that a marginally faster rider was passing through and letting him go, instead of trying to ditch the group and go with them.

I was still in "just happy to be riding top 10" mode. Except there was another problem -- I wasn't top 10 any more. A miserable sand pit ride where I stalled early and ran almost the entire thing left me in 11th, with the other three pulling away.

In the ensuing panic I dropped my chain on the rideup and the gap widened -- but at the top of the rideup, as I ran through I saw a hand holding out a dollar and a hand holding out a brownie. Wait a minute...I'm here to have fun.

I quit worrying about who else might be catching me and got back to railing corners. Smith uncharacteristically cracked and dropped back to me, and some hard running in the first sand pit got me all the way back to Sean's wheel. I was sitting comfortably behind him (well, as comfortable as one gets in the 45th minute of a cross race) planning my finish strategy when we got to sand pit #2 again -- and for the 5th time (in 6 tries) I botched it pretty badly.

He had three seconds at most, and we were entering the twistiest part of the course, I should have been able to fight back on. But he could see Isaac just ahead, plus Bagg, Lipka and Dunn just beyond. He wanted it BAD. He wanted it more than me.

He didn't get it, but I didn't get him.

Whatever. It was still an awesome race, Richard Fries had to actually learn my name (I heard him say it later!), Ryan Kelly screamed straight in my ear after he broke his bike, I got ten more Verge points (can I have an ebay auction yet?) and most importantly, I will always have the story of the Funniest. Start. Ever.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

W.E. Stedman GP Race Report

This blog was dead all week because I was busying working my butt off and living out of a suitcase, and any time I got a spare second I was trying to catch up on sleep in the (possibly vain) hope of peaking for this weekend. Sorry!

The rain/snow Friday afternoon hardened up the Stedman course, but with the temp nearing 45 things were softening fast in the sun. The early races happened on bulletproof dirt track, the late races on a tacky mud one. Right in the middle were B men, with the greasy mud on top of frozen dirt I think we had the hardest conditions of the day, exactly what I was hoping for. A super long, uphill paved section gave the roadies plenty of space to turn on the jets, so I was happy to see that putting the power down elsewhere required plenty of finesse.

I ended up on the start line next to Rosey, so when the whistle blew I immediately went left before he could crash me. Up the start hill I was pretty boxed in around 30th place, everyone was hauling in a typical B men's start, but then the road flattened out after 30 seconds and everyone was strangely content to sit in. It was bizarre, I was hammering up the left side, just holding my place in the start, and then all of the sudden I'm passing people... passing more people... I can see the front of the pack...holy crap I better stop sprinting so I don't get the holeshot.

I sat up and braked and hit the grass up in 12th or so, I don't know why it was so easy and now I'm wondering if I'm gonna blow up. But the field is greasy and packed with some tight turns, so I get plenty of recovery time as we tiptoe around the trees to a chorus of poorly-trued brakes. There's a nasty right-hand off camber turn that is absolute chaos, I end up going low and then getting ridden into the tape by a guy on the high line. Soon after on the left-into-right exit from the field people are all over the place and someone breaks the tape on the 180 right turn, and then everyone cuts it completely... classy guys. Despite all the drama I somehow remain around 15th through the first lap.

There's some real autobahn-type road sections so I'm expecting a stream of angry roadies to swarm me at some point, but there's a too many technical turns stringing out the field so instead the powerhouses like Rowell and Dunn come by one at a time, and I can hang with them for a while. Somewhere on what I think was lap two the alpha singlespeeder himself comes by, but it's a slow pass and I can actually get his wheel for a bit, a refreshing change from the last Verge race.

Nearing the end of lap two, on the pavement, I stand up to sprint and something goes horribly, horribly wrong. At the time I thought I blew my chain off the rings -- in retrospect I think I pulled out of a pedal due to sand -- but in any case I somehow fall straight off the pedals onto the pavement with both feet at 20 or so mph. Through some miracle of metal toe picks and metal cleats on pavement my feet end up sliding, and I Fred Flinstone for quite a ways before slowing enough to get a foot back on the pedals.

It costs me 5 or 10 seconds and removes me from the group I was with, but more importantly the anaerobic muscle spasms that come with a close call send me straight to the hurt box for a while. I dropped some places on the rest of the lap, I think Chris Bagg got by me here if he wasn't already ahead, and Cary F caught me here too. They both had super rocket legs on the pavement but I was able to hang on a wheel all the way up the finish straight and stay in contact. Cary was working really hard on the road and I think we pulled back Thom P here as well.

We rode in a fun group for a while after that, Cary and Chris had the raw power but Thom and I were cornering better, so they blocked us and then we sucked their wheels. Someone told us we were 13th, which made me totally psyched, but man were there a lot of people close behind -- I think on the results there ended up being 13 people in the 35 seconds behind us. So I was alternately terrified and elated, but luckily we were down to one lap to go.

Coming up the paved hill one last time, we caught PvB who inexplicably decided to bury himself to lead out Cary, the pace was so damn fast that John Peterson (coming back from a mechanical) actually ended up sitting in the group for a good 25 seconds before attacking it when PvB finally ran out of gas. Cary tried to go with him, which might have worked if he wasn't John f-ing Peterson, so Cary quickly took 20 bike lengths on us and we quickly pulled him back after Peterson dropped him.

Somehow I snuck my way to the front of the group heading into the sand run and I was actually far enough ahead that I was thinking I might have a gap I could take to the finish -- but just kidding, my dismount was terrible and I ended up dragging my bike on its side for a ways through the sand, and then next thing I know Cary runs right up next to me. Whoops.

But, I beat him to the next corner and held the lead, when we hit the backstretch Chris Bagg went tearing by me and I stayed in the general vicinity of his wheel. Then, in the distance, I saw the holy grail of 2/3 cross racing.

The Mountain Man.

And he was hurting. In fact, Chris Bagg had already passed him, and on the climb off the pavement he was right in front of me. I felt like Captain Ahab. I did what I had to do.

There was no time for celebration because there was still a train of mud and gears (and single speeds) hot on my heels. I clawed my way back to Chris Bagg's wheel on the slick corners and then passed him on the last off-camber, opening up just enough of a gap that he couldn't bring me back on the final paved stretch.

End result: 12th place.

Finally got my #^@&*% Verge points.

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.

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