Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wellington is Hilly

There's about one flat acre in all of Wellington and they put a rugby field on it, then decided to hang houses for 300,000 people on the surrounding hills. This place has no business being a city. It's a stupid and extremely charming location.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is Going OK.

I don't think the lorry drivers appreciate this scenery.

Always. Be. Practicing.

None of the interesting roads are paved. I'm ok with that.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Outta Here

Since this blog is mainly rearward-facing I didn't yet mention that I'm heading to New Zealand for two weeks, starting tomorrow. Since I only do vacations involving bike races, Linnea and I will be hitting the 2nd-ever New Zealand Cyclocross National Championships while we're down there. Since it's late winter/early spring, the riding should be perfectly miserable preparation for the cold and rainy cross season we won't have.

Posting frequency here will either go way up or way down, depending on how much internet access I can get and how much awesome stuff we do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Superfan Weekend/Darkhorse 40 Race Report

I raced the Darkhorse 40 this weekend. It was an awesomely eccentric event. There was a lot of beer and a lot of prize money given out. I would strongly recommend this event to anyone slower than me or not in my age category. If you're a 16-29 Cat 1 racer, though, this race sucked, stay far far away!

Before the race though, lots of other exciting stuff happened.

Saturday was the final US Cup of the season over at Windham, and since Linnea wants to sign up for a lifetime of getting beat down upgrade to pro, so it was a big event for her. Meanwhile, I am content with my faux-pro status and wanted nothing to do with an 8am start time, $60 entry fee, and $0 payout. Does this make me spoiled by Root 66 Pro/1 races? You betcha.

Of course I was still on site at 7:50 to be a superfan. Good times were had as Matty O and I ate breakfast sandwiches in the woods and I cheered for New Englanders I knew by name while hiding behind a tree. You could tell who was serious because they didn't even react to hearing their name behind them. Everyone who looked back, trying to see me... harden up!

As is the norm, Linnea crushed it and was sitting comfortably behind the girl in 2nd going into the final lap. I got out my little video camera and prepared to capture the inevitable sprint smackdown that was coming. Linnea came out of the woods a few bike lengths back, looking far too relaxed, and I started yelling something about how "no girlfriend of mine mails in a finish like that!" but then when she could barely go around the last corner I figured out she was riding a mostly flat rear tire. Ok, fair enough, although crashing out trying to sprint on a flat would have been a much better video.

Next up was the pro women's race and I was on bottle handup duty for Mo Bruno Roy. It was getting nasty hot out so I felt even more important than I usually do when someone tells me I can stand in the feed zone and give them bottles. Seriously, I love giving people bottles at big races or pitting at UCI cross events. It's vicarious racing... and I loves me some racing.

So I was the king of time splits and bottle handups for a while, told Mo she needed to pick it up on lap 4 to avoid getting pulled (which she did), and then got to sit in the shade while she suffered horribly in the still-rising heat on lap 5, wondering why she didn't just slow down and get pulled. Ha!

The final superfan excursion was pitting for Matt O'Keefe and Harry Precourt in the pro race. Once again stopwatches were run, time splits were slung, bottles were handed and I pretended to be important. It was insanely hot and Geoff Kabush is insanely fast, (when he's not hitting trees) so pretty much everyone got pulled, even Matt who was in 30th place (out of 80 starters).

After all the running around I had a perfect excuse for anything that went wrong at the Darkhorse the next day.

We were up at 6, heading for Newburgh State Forest with breakfast sandwiches in hand soon after. Coming down from Windham a deer ran out in front of the guy I was following, bounced off his bumper at 50mph, landed on its feet and kept running! How about that shit, I thought, so I watched, transfixed, as this stupid animal somehow managed to scale the far bank apparently unscathed.

I've clearly been out of Maine for too long because the fact that deer travel in pairs (or more) never crossed my mind, I just kept watching deer #1 run away, as deer #2 sprang out of the ditch on a kamikaze mission to keep me from racing the Darkhorse 40.

Since my Honda Fit weighs barely more than a deer, the damage was significant. I tried to solve the problem by looking at my crushed front corner and flipping out, while Linnea actually solved it by using a chain whip to pry the front fender off the wheel and then taping up the wheel well so the liner didn't rub.

A scant 10 minutes later I was somehow driving my car at 55 mph once more, albeit having sustained several thousand dollars worth of damage. Since the accident a few people have asked me why I didn't call the police, to which I say, "I had a friggin bike race to get to!"

I was worried about the car falling apart at 75 mph so I kept it pretty slow on the freeway for the next hour, slow enough we just barely made registration for the 40. My 8:24 arrival for the race seemed "fashionably late," but when I found out I had to ride over a mile to registration and we were staging at 8:40 it was revealed as "stupidly late." Luckily Linnea continued to bail me out and got my bike and bottle together while I frantically dressed, then came down later for feed zone duty.

Before the start I hung out with Greg Whitney and we talked about how it was already hot and we were probably going to die when the sun actually got high in the sky.

Being a 40-miler the first five minutes were obviously where the race would be won, so I went really hard, hit the singletrack in 3rd (Cat 1 16-29, that is) and quickly made some passes to get to the front. Oh yeah I'm totally dominating this race, I'm sure the fact that I've been doing 40-minute efforts for the last two weeks has nothing to do with why I am the fastest after ten minutes.

Then I realized that the nervous feeling in my stomach that wouldn't go away was actually a breakfast sandwich being digested at a HR of 185, so I backed it off a notch (a really big notch) and some guy had the audacity to pass me back and disappear up the trail.

With 35 miles to go I ignored him, and sure enough, passed him back as he addressed a burped tire near the end of the lap. Leading once more!

He fixed his tire issue, passed me back on a road section, and then broke his bike again somehow. Last I saw, he was trying to figure out what he had just broken, so I figured I had basically won the race (come on, we're 25% done at this point, it's OVERRRR) and headed off to kick asses and take names for a few more hours.

This was working great, as long as "kicking asses" means "holding my position" and "taking names" means "flatting on the leading edge of a wooden bridge so hard I dented my rim."

Whoops. The guy behind me fared no better, nor did two other guys who came through while we were having our flat-fixing party. It was a nasty one, a high-speed bridge in a dip that you could easily hit at 25 mph, and it looked innocent. I'm sure 25 people must have flatted on it, based on what I saw in the 6 minutes I was there.

Since my race prep was cut severely short I was rolling with only one CO2 and no pump, so I had to put a tube in or risk DNFing if it didn't reseal. And since I'm really stupid, I put about 30 psi into my rear tube (I was running about 24 tubeless, so 30 seemed wicked stiff). Guess how long it took me to flat again? Half a mile or less, and that was all she wrote, now I'm just a moron in the woods, a long way from his car with an unrideable bike.

So I counted my chickens a bit early on that one, I would say. Or perhaps the eggs hatched, but turned out to contain velociraptors instead of cute, fuzzy chicks. No matter the metaphor, something crappy happened that can all be traced back to me idiotically watching the car in front of me hit a deer.

Halfway through my walk home I came across the ice-cold-PBR-feed-station, which helped my perspective immensely. At least I was showing signs of fitness before breaking my bike, and at least I can still drive my car, and at least I'm in the woods slamming a cold beverage with a bunch of bikers instead of [insert lame activity someone you know does on the weekend].

I like bike racing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

That's right, too big to fit in a single day and too big to fit in a single blog post, the 24 hours of Great Glen report rolls on...

So this was Kevin's first 24 hour race. He went out on his first ever 24-hour lap 2:20 behind the leaders and head-to-head with Thom's team. Thirty-six minutes later, he had dropped Thom's team and could see the leader, so you have to forgive him for being a little excited, with a scant 22 hours and 45 minutes left until the end of the race.

I was there to take the next lap and Kevin comes flying into the tent, totally out of control, throws his bike down (the officials start asking him to pick it up), tries to get the baton out (drops it on the table), grabs his RFID card out of his pocket (I pick up his bike so the officials will stop yelling at us), tries to swipe the card but is in such a hurry it ends up flying across the table, hitting the timer-lady, and falling on the ground. Much to my amazement he didn't dive over the table after it at this point, but actually waited for 3 seconds while the timer he had just beaned with his card picked it up and swiped it for us. I swiped my card and looked at him: "Dude, chill!"

"GETTTTTT HIMMMMMMM" was all Kevin could muster between breaths. Dude was taking his 24 seriously... can't complain about that. So off I went.

Kevin's lap one heroics meant that I was getting onto course with an enraged and extremely fast Jeff Whittingham representing the pro team about 30 seconds behind me, and the overall race lead about 30 seconds ahead. As a result, anything along the lines of "pacing" went completely out the window, I just went flat out from the gun and decided to figure the rest out later. Fortunately the sub-40 laps were basically cross-race intensity, and I've been practicing that lately.

I caught the leader after a few miles, drafted for a few seconds and then attacked going into one of the many carriage-road climbs. No response. I'm leading the 24 hours of Great Glen! I'm leading! Holy crap!

I hit one of the many spots where the course loops back on itself and there's Jeff, 15 seconds down at the most. Holy crap! I'm about to not be leading!

I was still 10 seconds ahead of him at the high point, killing myself in the big ring on the way back down. It was lap three and we were already flying through lapped traffic, I was weaving in and out of solo riders like it was a video game, if I had a dollar for every sketchy pass I made in this race I could cover my entry fee. Hitting the last big singletrack section I was barely holding Jeff off, the gap was small enough you could barely call it a gap.

We both got held up by lapped traffic on the outback section of singletrack. I didn't realize it, but Jeff was actually right on my wheel when I entered the plunge and headed for the alternate line. Unfortunately the main line rejoined it much sooner than I was ready for and I went sliding through another racer. Somehow my bars passed above hers (thanks, off-camber!) and we managed to occupy the same space for a second without anyone going down. Jeff, on my wheel, decided that killing a beginner racer on her second lap was probably not worth it, and ended up bailing instead of t-boning her completely.

The gap re-established, I sprinted out the last two minutes of the lap and tagged Rob with a seven second advantage over the pros.

When I originally asked Rob to do this event, he had just crushed me at Putney and I figured anyone who can crush me is pretty fast (ha!). I forgot that he was a technical specialist on a singlespeed, and Great Glen is one of the most roadie-friendly and gear-friendly courses out there. But, by some awesome coincidence, Rob and Harry (representing the pro team) were both on rigid singlespeeds, so the handicap was mutual.

As was getting to be the norm, they fought a close battle on lap four, and Rob came in leading the race by 14 seconds, putting Curtis back out against Thom.

This is where the race turned for us. After a full rotation of riders we were beating the pros, but that rotation involved a 3-minute run that wouldn't be repeated. Now Curtis had to hold his own against Thom using only his biking skills. The last few years of my mountain biking life have mainly been about not being able to hold my own against Thom, so I wasn't surprised or upset when Curtis came in 40 seconds down.

Kevin was up against Mat Katz on the next leg, and now that Mat had seen the course (he was the only guy not to preride), he picked it up and took 30 more seconds from Kevin. I got tagged over a minute down on Jeff, who was currently leading the "fastest lap" board on the results. So that's a problem.

It's amazing how much your legs can bounce back with two hours of rest, and it's also amazing how consistently faster than me Jeff is. My second lap was only a minute slower than lap one (sub-37 minutes, thankyouverymuch), but Jeff went sub-36 and that was pretty much the last time we had a reasonable chance of seeing the pro team.

Well, except for the fact that they were camped next to us. We saw them a lot when they weren't riding bikes.

Beyond this point, I don't really know what happened. I rode every lap as if it was my last, and I think everyone else did too. Some teams (sane teams) went to double laps at night for sleeping; we did not. I have never been much for sleeping at these things anyway, since lying down can only lead to getting up, and getting up is the worst part. We briefly sketched out a plan that would give each person a 6-lap break while only doing singles (it was complicated...trust me) but once the hurt got going in earnest the team voted to keep the rotation simple and fast.

This is my kind of 24 hour team.

We bled a slow death against the pros: 5 minutes down after 10 laps, 19 minutes after 20 laps, 24 minutes after 30 laps, and we dealt an almost equally slow defeat to the third-place team. There were no heroics and no surprises, just three teams riding every lap as hard as they could, hoping someone else would have a catastrophe.

We finally lapped third place on lap 25, at 4:30 in the morning, and could finally breathe a sigh of relief: at least we had solidified the expert category. At over 20 minutes behind the pro team, we had little left to race for. It would've been a good time to switch to doubles and get some sleep.

No one wanted to do doubles or sleep -- at 27 minutes behind the pros, we were only 12 or so minutes away from being lapped. Getting lapped by our neighbors and their stupid pro licenses was the last thing I wanted, and apparently no one else did either-- the team responded by beating the pros on 3 straight laps and taking five minutes off the deficit.

Such insolence was enough to get Thom and Jeff to wake up and go back to kicking-our-ass mode, as they both pulled sub-38 minute laps the next time out. No one on our team had the legs left for that kind of lap, so the gap went back up, but it was a moral victory -- we were on the same lap, and going fast enough that they couldn't mail it in.

In the end, we weren't winners, but we were worthy competition. The closest thing we had to a "bad lap" was a 2-minute mishap when Rob's lights wouldn't turn on. No one slept, no one took a lap off or easy, and we were still running through the tent for more laps at 11:40 in the morning. Everything I wanted in a team. Thanks guys!!

There's lot of other random notes that didn't fit into the report:

1) The worse the fuel you put in Rob Stine, the faster he goes. I'd like to say "imagine how fast he'd be with a reasonable diet," but I think at this point he's evolved to burn old roast beef sandwiches at 100% efficiency.

2) Jeff Whittingham positively owned me. We were both riding the third leg for our respective teams, and every time I went out and dropped what I considered to be a ridiculous lap time I'd get back to camp and find out he'd just beaten it. My puke-inducing 38:34 at 9am? Yep, he rode a 37:29. Blazing 39:09 night lap? He did a 38:47. The one time I thought I got him (I rode a 40, he rode 42) I realized that he'd done his lap in the dark, and mine was in the light, since they were 25 minutes ahead. Can't really count that one.

3) Thom rode a 39:60 in the morning and trash-talked us about it. I came back with a 38:30 and trashed him right back. He dropped a 37:11 on us. That was the end of the trash talking.

4) After 8 laps, Kevin spent his entire 2 hour break whining about how wasted he was and how he couldn't go fast any more. He had me so convinced he was done that I told him we only needed a 45 out of him to avoid getting lapped, and I was "sure he could do it." We sent him out, praying he'd hold up and keep us on the lead lap -- he was back 38:05, going so fast he overshot the scorer's table.

5) On my final trip through the Outback, while I was climbing through a crowd of solo riders walking their bikes, I passed two seven-year olds spectating. One said to the other, "see, that's one of the really fast guys." Made my freaking day. Next goal: impress someone old enough to not need a babysitter.

6) I came up with the team name "Endo Farmers" using awesome website Band Name Maker. Later I found out that "endo" can be slang for marijuana as well as a type of crash. Oh man, I am so accidentally edgy. Look out.

7) You know that seemingly-innocuous right-hand bend as you come back past the pond at the end of the lap? I was going so freaking hard (trying to beat Jeff on a lap) in the morning that I overshot the dirt, overshot the grass, and very nearly overshot the weeds into the pond. And this was after nearly hitting the bagpiper there on the previous lap. That turn was baaaad for me.

8) Adam, Ben, Alex and Scott did an amazing job representing skirack.com/road cyclists everywhere with a 4th place finish overall and the fastest night doubles I've ever seen. Rich and Brad had some epic suffering on the 2-man team (don't say I didn't warn you!), and an awesome finish to win 2nd place after being tied with 3rd at 10am.

9) I spent most of the 2nd half of the race unable to eat anything other than gels. I felt horrible when I was off the bike, especially when it was cold out and I was sweaty. The worst part was just before dawn, sitting in the timing tent shivering and bloated. Somehow, twenty pedal strokes into the lap, it was all forgotten and I was just hammering yet again. It happened all morning -- I felt much better racing than not racing.

It's hard to explain why this event rocks so hard. I didn't sleep at all, and no amount of coffee or slapping myself in the face could keep me awake on the drive home. Kevin had to take over so I could pass out. I spent several hours shivering and sweaty in my sleeping bag. It took me literally an hour to eat a Clif Bar. It's Wednesday and I just tried to do some intervals -- yeah, not really recovered yet, either.

And yet, it's the highlight of my summer. I don't know why, but most people agree -- do it once and you'll love it. See you there next year. I've got some lights you can use!

I am going so fast here that my glasses have been half-bounced off my face. Otherwise I would look wicked cool, I swear. [from doublehop]

24 Hours of Great Glen Pre-Race Report

The 24 hours of Great Glen is pretty much the highlight of my mountain bike season. It's not a question of if I'll do it, but how. Last year, Linnea and I pushed our relationship to the limit (by 10pm), and while were reasonably satisfied with the experience, she was smart enough to say "never again" the following morning. So, I started planning a 4-man expert team, last August.

I know a lot of people who race bikes, and since I like 24-hour racing I assumed they all did too. I made a list of candidates in my head (still in last August), but held off on proposing it to anyone for six months. Even I could tell that asking my friends to do a race 11.9 months away would tip them off that I'm crazy about this race, and maybe not in a healthy way.

To make a long story short, it turns out that a lot of my so-called "friends" don't think that staying up all night and racing your bike as hard as you can is a great idea. I found this disappointing and confusing. I know they'd like it, if they only tried it. Here, I have lights! Come try it! The first hit is free! You'll love it!

No one believed me.

Back to the drawing board.

I registered in June, before the price went up. I put Linnea's brothers in as teammates so that no one would know I still had nobody... I figured getting the 2nd guy on the team would be the hardest part. Somewhere around early July I got Kevin to commit, I think I told him he was the 4th guy at that time. Soon after Rob Stine came on board, he was so excited about it he decided to ditch the Wilderness 101 the weekend before so he'd be fresh. Now that's the kind of enthusiasm I can get behind!

I finished off the team by plying Dylan McNicholas, Cat 1 roadie/watt factory, with beverages and tales of the money we could win until he said yes. The team was set. Let's do this thing.

Turns out the problem with getting really fast roadies drunk and making them sign up for 24 hour races is that when they sober up they figure out how bad an idea it is. Dylan has some races coming up against teams like Columbia and Garmin (heard of them?) and realized that the 24 was a bad, bad way to prep for them. Of course, he realized this the Monday before the event.

At this point, I knew that Thom had been looking for a fast guy for the last 3 weeks so replacing Dylan was going to be a challenge. I'd already emailed basically every single person I knew -- it was time to move onto emailing people I didn't know.

Thanks to the miracle of Facebook I had a nice list of people that I "kind of know" all queued up. I grabbed my big list of casual mountain biker acquaintances, sorted them by speed, and got to beggin' emailin'.

I don't even know how Curtis Boivin ended up on my friend list (maybe we got to be friends after I stole his prime last year?) but I knew he did a 2-man team at Great Glen in '08 and turned faster laps than me for the whole event. Now that's a solid candidate, much more solid that I was expecting to find. I should've emailed this guy long ago! Oh wait, I hardly know him.

And sure enough, he said "yes" faster than anyone else who joined the team. Curtis is fast and will agree to doing a 24 on five days notice without batting an eye. He is a cool dude. I asked him if he ran much or if he wanted to do the run. He said yes. Super cool.

So there we were, Saturday morning, facing five expert teams and a pro team for $1600 and a lot of bragging rights. The order was set: Curtis, Kevin, Me, Rob.

The cannon fired and Curtis slayed the run. To the casual observer his 8th place around the pond may not have looked that impressive, but I knew many of the teams had runners who didn't mountain bike much on them, and of course that's the guy you send out on the first lap. Sure enough, after six minutes of racing Curtis was up to 2nd.

He finished lap one in 3rd, just 7 seconds behind Thom. Kevin took the baton, flew out of the tent, and the race was on...

Impending 24 hours of pain? Curtis smiles at the thought.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Precognition

I've done Great Glen enough that I really ought to have less enthusiasm for this event by now. Every year it goes the same way -- I spend a whole week getting hyped up, losing sleep, super excited -- and by 6pm during the race I'll be shoved in the hurtbox, praying for it to end.

This year I'm on a 4 man team, which only sounds easier. Longer breaks just means you have to hurt more when you're on the bike. With five other expert teams and a pro team out there, suffering, intensity and focus are gonna be the name of the game.

So why am I so excited?!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spectacross Saturday Race Report

After Friday's mudbath, the big question was what would happen to the course when "normal" August weather hit it on Saturday. Peanut-butter death mud or hard and fast autobahn? Fortunately for the elite race, we had some crash test dummies, er, novice racers, out there packing it down in the morning and by the time 2:55 rolled around it was hard and fast, except for that one small lake in the tractor-pull arena that was somehow holding out against the heat.

Oh yeah. The HEAT. Did you know August cross is hot? Really hot? Yeah. This race shoulda been at night, because the night races were cool (in both senses), and 50 minutes in the sun sucks. Still though -- it's the same for everyone, right? Shut up and ride.

The start was just as important as the day before, but this time they elected to start us with a quiet horn pointing away from us. The starters said "10 seconds..." and then there was a little "tweet" sound in the background. Was that the gun?? No one moved for a second, and then someone decided it must have been the gun and went. As usual I was worried about doing something socially awkward so I was flatfooted and panicking about what to do when the rest of the front row rolled out... this put me into a 10th place start that immediately drew heckling from my two fans.

With the course as tight as yesterday and much faster, passing was hard. I spent two laps all over Dave Wilcox's back wheel with nothing except wasted energy to show for it, since everyone was gunning it on the few straightaways out there. Luckily we all stayed in contact with the front, so I was only 6 seconds behind Jonny Bold. Of course there were 8 bodies in between us, but at least I felt like I was in contention.

Finally I was able to get past Dave, right about the time the front four riders started checking out and the rest of us consolidated into "chase 1." A 3-minute course with 20+ turns per lap really makes you pay for tailgunning, so I got off the back as soon as possible by passing Brian when he got into the dried-up ruts on a corner. This was basically just poking a bear with a stick, though, because he easily and angrily took that position back a few straightaways later.

Luckily for me sometimes Brian handles his bike about as well as a bear does (which is something like this) so he took a trip over the bars on the lone "descent" on the course a few laps later. I had actually been gapped pretty badly at that time because I was being a total wuss about the heat, but he also dropped his chain in the crash so I was able to pass while he was futzing with that.

As the race reached midway (8 laps done, 25 minutes!) the heat started to take its toll on everyone. We were allowed to take bottle feeds on the only straightaway, but it was pretty costly to sit up and drink instead of hammering in the one spot you could actually do it. I tried to drink and got gapped each time, so I quit doing it. Eventually some of the fast starters started to succumb to the heat, or maybe it's just hard to hang out at the front with Jonny and Al. Either way, I slowly crawled my way to the front. Near the end I caught up to Ben, and when he went for a drink I attacked, because I was like "man, it really sucked when Brian gapped me when I was drinking."

He probably did not like me very much for that.

After that, or maybe before that, I did a bunch of laps fighting with Mukunda Feldman, but then he dropped his chain on the barriers and I got away for good. I am going to have problems once people get their chains to stay on.

Like everyone else I struggled through the final hot laps (and it was only 50 minutes!), but I made it into the arena just in time to see the 3-way battle for the win (it was... physical) and hang on to 4th place for another foolishly lucrative payday.

Spectacross was silly. Spectacross was fun. Would I drive 4.5 hours to race cross in July again? Probably. Would I do it if it was local? Hell yeah. So Mid-Atlantic racers, what's the deal? The elite race had more riders from Virginia (4) than Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York combined (1).

Mid Atlantic dudes, let's race bikes next year! He gave out tons of money!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spectacross Friday Night Sprints Race Report

Some people are cross purists, and think that 'cross in August is the end of the world.

Some people will drive a long way if you comp their entry and put $2000 in prize money up.

Turns out I'm in the latter group. The Spectacross promoter decided to stage via crossresults.com points, aka mah shit, and decided to comp me an entry to his event because he's nicer than he has to be. Cool. A cross race on July 31st? That's the right kind of wrong, if you ask me.

So Linnea and I did the (surprisingly short) drive down to Jer-zee to throw down at the state fair -- because nothing says 'cross like food on a stick.

The drive down was slowed by multiple tornado-quality thunderstorms. We arrived to a mostly deserted state fair (even carny folk won't run the Ferris Wheel in thunder like that) and a soaking wet cross course. Bunch 'o cars parked next to the course, all full of riders peering apprehensively at a the one guy preriding, who appeared to have been spray-painted brown.

I didn't have to race for a good 2 hours so at least I had an excuse to cower in the car while other people raced through standing water. My plan of refreshing the doppler on my phone every 10 seconds worked and it stopped raining. I kitted up, rode a lap, destroyed my brake pads, soiled my chamois, and hopped on the trainer. Oh cross, how I missed you.

After a pathetic warmup I rushed over to the start line. I realized that my front wheel didn't turn very well, tried to head back to the car to adjust, got yelled at by Alan Atwood. Oh Alan, how I missed you!

The field was small but the course was tight and the race was short, so the holeshot was key. Jonny Bold grabbed it with Al Donahue, Ben Popper and I on his wheel. We tiptoed around the turns in super-muddy tractor pull arena for a bit until we got to the tightest turn, which I used Linnea's PROTIP advice to get off and run around on the tight line while everyone else was trackstanding. I sprinted like a madman and passed Ben, remounted and blocked him out into the next turn. Hooray for pointless match-burning! He passed me back in 10 seconds later because he had carbon wheels.

Then he went to the front of the race to duke it out with Jonny and Al while I decided to pay the price for starting too fast. Thirty minutes is actually a pretty long time to suffer, which I should have known from short track mountain bike racing. The 3+ minute lap didn't help matters either, after four laps I was looking for lap cards and they said six to go. Ooooh, not even halfway done.

Luckily, there was so much super-slick braking and turning that mandatory 2-second rests were all over the course, so my explosion was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. I quickly dropped to fifth, and then down to sixth with 3 laps to go. But 3 laps is only 10 minutes! I can suffer that long. Usually.

I clung to his wheel for two laps, ate several pounds of what was hopefully mud, and then attacked with one to go.

Three minutes 'o pain, let's do this! Sprint sprint... brake...corner delicately... sprint sprint sprint.. repeat until full of lactic. OpponentZach is still on my wheel... Turns are so tight it probably doesn't matter, as long as you don't bobble...

...so then I bobbled a corner coming into the longest straightaway, put a foot down for a split-second and he's gone, sprinting all-out as I try to get back on my gear from a standing start. DAMMIT.

Alec Donahue was kind enough to break his derailleur off, giving me 5th place on the day anyway... and fifth place was worth a ridiculous $85, aka the biggest payout I will get all season. Everyone fast from the Mid Atlantic who stayed home -- thanks!

Post race we hit the cattle stalls to wash bikes. For serious. State fair crossin' is not your average crossin'.

This was more "pure" than all the grass crits you will race in September [ from redskynight ]

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