Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SCX #5 - Maris Farms

After upgrading (kind of by force) earlier in the week I was ready to compete in my first race as a Cat 3. I was definitely nervous but it was the good kind. I had comfort in knowing I'd have two teammates lining up with me at the start. It had been a nasty week weather wise and it continued to rain as the weekend started but by the time Sunday morning rolled around the skies over Bellevue were clear. We headed out towards Buckley and all we could see were massive thunder clouds that looked to be settled right over our destination. When we arrived at the parking lot I was amazed to see that we were just on the edge of the system and it was still clear. I heard a squall had passed though right before we arrived . Since it had been raining all week the parking lot was nothing but ankle deep mud and I had to help push three cars that became stuck. If the lot was like this, what would the course be like??

The race was at Maris Farms and it was still set up for the for all of their Halloween festivities. I jumped on my backup bike to take a lap around the pumpkin lined course. IT WAS INSANE!! The course itself wasn't that technical but most of it was in deep mud so riding was going to be next to impossible in places. We finished warming up on the trainer and headed to the start.

SCX gives you incentive to upgrade by allowing you take the points you accumulated in your previous catagory with you. I had enough points to be able to get a call up to the front row. Right from the start I could tell it wasn't going to be my day. When I arrived at the staging area they announced the call ups and my name was never called. I asked the official what was going on and he told me to wait until the last name was called and then jump into the back row. I told him that I just upgraded and should be able to start up front. He said he didn't know why I wasn't listed but there was nothing he could do about it. A few minutes later David James, who encouraged me to upgrade and told me how it worked, came up and told me there must have been a mistake and apologized. If I had have known that coming in it wouldn't have been a big deal but I think it did mess with my head a little. OK, I will just race my own race and just try to pick off as many guys as I could. The way we were staged had the front half of our field on gravel but the back half (where I was) standing in deep mud. There was no way I'd be able to ride through this from a dead start.
The whistle blew and the guys in front took off. They already had a little gap before I was even on my bike. We got up to the first turn and I noticed that Vern was on my wheel. He had a really bad start and managed to drop to the back of the pack . He didn't panic and started to move up quckly. He is really strong and I figured if I could follow his moves I might be OK.....Wrong!!! He was smart and dismounted to get down the first nasty off camber hill which took a 180 into a run up. I also jumped off but the guy in front of me didn't. He went down hard right at the turn and I got completely tangled up with him. It took us a few seconds to get separated. I realized I was falling farther back and tried to do too much too soon. My heart rate went through the roof and I could not get my breathing under control. I hit the first really deep section of mud and was riding it well but the guy right in front of me stalled half way through and jumped off his bike right in my line. I had swerve to avoid hitting him and lost my momentum. Then I was running in the ankle deep mud. I was now really feeling like shit. Just about the time I was able to remount there was more deep mud and I was off the bike and running again. This sucked. I think I originally took up cycling because I hated to run. I don't mind a run up or a little sand on each lap of a race but this was nuts. I finally hit a more solid dirt section where I could get some speed going. I had hoped to catch some guys here but the other side of the path was laced with large, sharp rocks and it was way slower so I just settled back in and followed. By the time I finished the first lap I think I had already been off my bike more than all the previous cx races combined. I was not liking this at all but continued to forge on. It was just one of those days. Every time I would get some momentum going someone would eat it right in front of me and I would either go down or have to dismount and start running. I was in the red and tanking hard. I wanted to quit but that wasn't an option. The next lap was a carbon copy of the first two and I was not only NOT making up ground but was now starting to fall farther back. My bike was so caked up with mud that it felt like it weighed 30 pounds. We had teammates working the pits for us and normally I would have pulled in to change bikes. Ed would have cleaned my bike off and had it ready for when my back up bike got weighed down. I never went in. I was so gassed that my head was messed up. All I could think about was the hassle of having to completely clean two bikes instead of just one. I finally saw the lap board telling us we had one to go. I limped around and finally came across the line in 24th place. I have never been so happy to be done with a race. I am pretty sure I was off the bike more than on it. I had raced nine times this year and never finished outside of third. Maris Farms 1, Sean 0. I was starting to question upgrading. Unlike me, Vern kept his cool and patiently moved through the pack and ended up taking 1st!!! I have to travel for work next week and will miss the race at Woodland Park. Maybe my body just needs a rest.
all pictures by Denise Phillips

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