Go Dad Go!

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

Two Cross Races + Three Kids in a Day = OUCH

It's been said (first by Greg LeMond, according to some) that "it doesn't get easier; you just get faster." I've certainly found this to be true -- though cross brings a new twist: as you get faster, it gets harder.

The first couple of cross races I did my fitness fell victim to my poor skills; regardless of any all-out, gap-closing efforts I put in on the occasional open, non-technical stretch, I found myself losing ground as soon as the trail twisted, turned rough or ran through barriers. So at some point I'd find myself mid-pack with no one within sight ahead or behind me, at which point it's tough to muster much anaerobic effort.

But my skills have come along -- this is relative, mind you -- and this week I caught a glimpse of the top ten in the Men's 35+ B race. That's exciting, but it means that places are starting to matter (to me, anyway; who am I kidding otherwise?), so the effort needs to remain consistent. No more little breaks after blowing it over a barrier; no more coasting a gradual descent, hoping to play it cautious. Yesterday meant riding hard until the end.

But this worked well; my race with the masters Bs was my best cross race yet. Good thing, too, because I raced again later in the day, and that one -- against the open Bs -- was not my best race.

The day, on the whole, was a blast. Karen was a star, supporting the two-race effort with a full day at Golden Gate Park with the kids. Not that this was such ardor; our kids played the entire day with Morgan and Lauren's -- and ate sausage and cookies and donuts, and got comfy in their "clubhouse," a clearing in the trees, replete with urban park accoutrements like beer bottles, but not worse. Plus it's not like I didn't help with kid management; see the attached photo, in which I'm moderating a game of Apples to Apples while warming up.

Team Oakland was out in full force, with some strong showings, but most of all with a great hang-vibe. This was my favorite race of the year, partly because it was a good one for me, but mostly because so many TO-ers come out and take part in what became, over the course of the day, a full-blown party. A narrow run-up became a tunnel of heckling by my second race, with beer-spray, dollar-plucking (from beer bottles, arranged along the course) and the occasional waft of pot smoke.

The hecklers had fun with me, as in my second-race exhaustion I nearly stacked it dismounting and trying to look smooth, though on another lap I did manage to blow by a guy in a Cal jersey in front of the crowd (if only I'd had my Stanford kit on...). But that race was for conditioning, and experience; the first race felt smooth, despite the utter lack of warmup (gotta get that figured out). Despite a mid-pack start, I passed guys all race long, didn't get passed until the final straight and ended up 16th out of 82 -- which means I'd missed the median-placing award of a bottle of Cycles Gladiator only in that final sprint. By lap two I was muttering, Apollo Creed-style, "Ain't gonna be no second race," but fought those demons and managed to enjoy this race as much as any I've entered.

The TO cheering helped, as did seeing Declan running alongside the course, and passing -- not too quickly -- the guys in goofy floral skinsuits. My heart was about to burst through my forehead, and I was pretty sure at one point that if I didn't let up a bit I'd never walk again, but in that cross kind of way...it was, as the kids would say, "hecka fun."


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