Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Krugers Crossing 11/21/10


We must be crazy to do this thing called cyclocross. Right? Its 35 degrees, raining AND snowing and we think that sounds like a perfect day for a race. And yet, at the end of our race we are cold, shivering and grateful. Grateful we got through it and finished. Grateful for understanding partners and spouses that put up with mud EVERYWHERE. And, grateful for those friendly faces that lent a helping hand, a quick bike fix, or just agreed to hold your crap at the start line.

Frosty streets and sunshine at 8:00 AM left me half expecting a dry course on Sauvie Island. No such luck. Even without rain for two days, Kruger's farm had standing water everywhere and the mud was just plain greasy. At least it wasnt the sticky peanut butter mud from last year that took many a derailleurs life. Small but festive, a dedicated group turned out for what some consider their last race of their season. More than once I heard racers say they were just plain DONE with cleaning their bike this year. Amen to that.With Shane at home riding the sick couch, I was on my own for set up and take down of the borrowed Kona tent. Lucky for me I set up camp next to Tireless Velo, as my friend Mike Robinowitz is on that team. His friends and teammates were quick to help me with tent set up and continued to offer me beer all day including a 4 beer hand ups (that I politely declined).

My early morning pre ride of the 2 mile route gave me plenty to ponder before 2 PM. Slick rutted flats, a pumpkin barrier, hay bail run up (some tried to ride it and failed), and three barriers sections. A 4th barrier positioned in front of a huge mud puddle was taken out before my race. Long gravel and paved road sections allowed for more big gear pushing before you dropped back into the grit and grass. Many sought warmth at the bonfire as our sun faded before noon, leaving us with the rain/snow mix that didn't let up all day. At least the rain would keep us from dragging five pounds of mud around the course.

A poorly timed last minute trip to the porto potty was almost a missed start. Running to the line, I was trying to hold my bike and pull my rain pants off without much luck. Seeing my struggle, a nice guy came over and gave me a hand. Lucky for me Jenn Levo (Bridgetown Velo) was at the start waiting to take my stuff since she was not racing. Thanks Jenn! My mind is clear, it is very cold. I am in the front row with Sarah Eustice (Bike Attorney), Sarah Tisdale (Sorella Forte) and Beth Burns (Veloce). Whistle blows and we shoot down the long muddy road with the corn fields our right. My fingers are already frozen, I've got mud in my eyes but I can't get distracted and give up the fast past. Dropping onto the long gravel road, the pace increases and I've set my sights on Beth (chased her plenty at Blind Date). Right turn off the road into the mud is followed by a hard left up a set of 4 railroad tie stairs with a slight uphill at the top. A quick remount by the farm house and we are back down a small hill that turns us back to the road we just came from. I am in the front 5 as we hit another right onto the muddy tractor road into the fields and one girl goes down in front of me. Next is a hard left into a very muddy technical rose bush section that leads you down hill and out to a barrier. By this time I have passed the group and I am getting in behind Beth, our current leader. Mentally I'm patting myself on the back for catching her so quickly. Staying on her wheel to pace her, we roll through the barn by the finish for lap 2.. The course sends us around the thick mud path next to a green house and then back to the barriers by the team tents. We run the farm gauntlet. 2 barriers, huge puddles, pumpkin barrier(smells horrible over there), hay bail run up , back to pumpkin barrier again and through the huge mud puddles to the 2nd set of barriers at the team tents. I pass Beth when she trips and falls in between the barriers. Knowing that we are rounding the corner by the start shoot, I kick my gears up in an attempt to reach the road first. Fingers are numb and pushing my shifter is almost impossible. My determination pays off and I finish lap two in the lead with Beth 20 seconds behind me. Lap three I fail to get my foot unclipped at the single barrier on the back section and fall right on my butt. No damage done, but Beth passes me at the barrier. We make the greasy turn around the huge tree into the long grassy mud road leading back to the barn by the start. I pass her back and she pants good job, as I a take the lead in lap 3. Lapping the slower riders, I do my best to say Good Job but my lips are so cold it sounds like, Guuu Japhhh. I call and my quads respond in my attempt to build a bigger gap but the pumpkin barrier and hay bail run up slow me just enough for Beth to get close. Unaware we are being stalked, Megan Schubel (Sweatpea Ladies) passes me after the barriers and she is cookin. Beth kicks her pace up, passes me on the flats and chases. Fifth and final lap and I am chasing them. Nobody is even close to us on the rear to worry about (we were the only 3 that did 5 laps). I pushed as hard as I could on the final run in but Beth finished in 2nd with me seconds behind her for 3rd. We high fived and congratulated each other on a fine race season at the finish line.

The elation of having raced well evaporates when I realize I can't feel my fingers. Finding me at the finish, I get my rain jacket from Jenn but can't make the zipper on her backpack work to get the rest. Unable to remove my wet cold gloves, she pulled them off for me so I could find a place to warm my fingers. With my bike leaning against me, I Shoved my hands inside my jersey (it wasn't very warm in there), and stood frozen in this position, grimacing with pain shooting through my finger tips. I knew Jenn had someone waiting for her so I gathered my rain pants and sweatshirt, wrapping them around my hands and forced myself to slog back to the tent. The shaking gets worse when I try to get out of my wet muddy kit and into something dry. Hands waging like the pooches in the doggy cross race. I managed to get my top half dry and covered and put on my No Peak towel skirt over my bib shorts. Leaning against the car, removing my shoes and shorts was grueling with shaking frozen fingers. Seeing my frigid struggle, Mike and his wife come to my aid. With Mike turning my car on and cranking up the heat, I had a seat on the back of my rig, with the hatch open. They each took a leg and peeled off my filthy knee highs that felt like muddy ice packs. Hands and arms shaking wildly from the bone chilling cold, I now look like I am having a seizure. Retrieving towels from my back seat, they proceeded to clean my gritty legs and put clean wool socks on for me while Mike jokes that maybe I should eat more pizza and bacon. Ohhh!! Is that how you stay warm? I shivered on my own into sweatpants and mud boots, climbed into the warm front seat and burst into muddy eye burning tears. It took about an hour for the shaking to go away completely. A trip to the bonfire helped warm me up before I retrieved pinky from the pit and cleaned my bikes. Mike's last good deed (other than taking pictures for me with my camera) was to help me put the tent in the car.
I am truly grateful that we as racers have such a wonderful group of people to spend a cold day in hell with.

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