Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Staying Loose -- the Dirt, not Me

My brother in Portland tells me I don't really understand cyclocross because we don't have mud here. He may well be right. But we do have bark dust, about the squishiest substance this side of Pacific Northwest sludge, and it was strategically lodged in many a tricky corner on Saturday's course at Coyote Point.

I was geared up for this race after last week, my best 'cross race ever, not to mention a great day out with the family. And I remembered the course fondly from last year, as it included a steady grind to the upper end of the park, as big a climb as I've seen in a cross race.

But the day was much colder than last Saturday; the wind chilled Karen's and the kids' spirits and they hunkered under blankets instead of tearing around the park. And Catie's poor friend LuLu was sick -- and I mean sick, including some solid vomiting -- thus leaving Catie and Declan (LuLu's admirer) without a playmate.

Unlike last week, I felt technically spastic around this course, losing traction and touching a foot in probably a dozen soft sections. The organizers (who do a fantastic job with this series) clearly set out to make it a technically tougher course than last year, routing us around one hairpin after another instead of just sending us up the hill. After starting mid-pack, time and again I reeled one, two, maybe three guys in, only to lose them as I biffed a tight section. Then I'd blow up trying to bring them in, and hit the next dicey twist in the trail with shaky attention or balance, at which point I'd botch it again. (In the photo here you can see me chasing a guy downhill -- not something I do too well); he'd started the race around fifth in the series, so I know he's pretty fast, but just a bit later I lost him when I lost it, lightning-sand style, in a soft corner).

All of which left me in...17th place, just one spot back from last week. I chalk this up to a smaller, thinner field; I was a good minute further back from the winners this time, and I was completely shot after the race, so I know I couldn't have given it much more.

I count many excuses -- a cold, maybe not the right tire pressure, and the fact that we drove directly to the race after a full-on chow-down at a charity brunch for a great organization that we support called Vida Verde. They're an environmental education program dedicated completely to getting kids from low-income communities into the outdoors, and they definitely change lives. I was happy to put some organic muffins, goat's milk yogurt and locally-grown fruit down in their support.

I learned that a guy named Michael Gil took second in my race; I know him from road races, when we were very evenly matched. I do wonder if cross is the right pursuit for me, and can't see myself abandoning road racing -- but I also wonder if I have a choice, because I don't see myself coming into more training time anytime soon!


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