Sunday, October 21, 2007

The magic number

Jeff, Big E and I headed out for Meredith College this morning for the first 'cross race of the season. Jeff and I stopped at the Barrel for a little pre-race grubfest. I tucked in to a massive plate of sourdough french toast with blackberries, two eggs over easy and some turkey sausage. I washed it down with hot coffee which tasted like brown with a hint of burnt.

We got to Meredith College and did an initial survey of the course. You needed at least a graduate degree in trigonometry in order to fully grasp every twist an turn in the course. There were two extended switchback hookylau sections plus a decreasing radius spiral that somehow spit you out into another section of the course through some rent in the space-time continuum. There was a tiny bit of brick paved section that dumped you into a very deep, descending leaf-mulch mix that was akin to a sandpit only browner and with bigger chunks.

Now Big E swore up and down that he didn't think that many people would show up. I think he needs to start deciding how he wants his crow prepared because the CX4 class saw a record 106 starters. Let me spell that out for you: one hundred and six starters in a CX4 'cross race! I found myself about third row in the middle of the mass on the start line, conveniently located at the base of a 4 tiered, grass-covered hill. It certainly seemed in my appraisal that a good, if not great, start was going to be the only way to even dream of contending. The whistle blew and I proceeded to zig and zag, bob and weave and any other thing that I could think of to get to the outside and start shooting up the mass of riders. I fell into line somewhere in the teens as we headed for the first skill required twisty section. The sheer volume of riders was incomprehensible. We went up a climb, took a right hand turn, went down a 200 meter straightaway, u-turned, went down a companion 200 meter straightaway, took a left hand turn onto a section that ran in the opposite direction to and parallel the initial climb and THERE WERE STILL RIDERS RIDING IN A SINGLE FILE UP THE INITIAL STARTING CLIMB! I could not believe how far ahead I was from just being heads up about the start. The race is just a blur: people passed me, I passed people. It was the hardest 'cross course I have ever raced and the hardest I have raced in a very long time. I think I finished somewhere in the 20's, but I honestly have no clue.

After crossing the finish line and riding into the finish chute (to aid scoring), I felt the immense and pressing urge to throw up. A little rest, a little small talk with some teammates and I made my way towards Jeff who was lining up for the Master's race. Now earlier that morning, I had registered for not just the CX4, but also the 35+ race. One was at ten, the other at eleven; seemed like a good idea at the time. But at this point, it seemed like a stupid idea to race back-to-back on this brutal course. I was going to tell Jeff "good luck" and inform him that I would not be racing the Master's race, but somehow my calorie-deficient brain got into the group at the line and thought "screw it" and I decided to race anyway. I begged some water off some people on the sidelines and mentally prepared myself for 45 more minutes of pain. I admonished myself that if I started, I would finish. DFL maybe, but not DNF! Long story short, Jeff took 3rd in a smoking fast race and I pulled out the Lantern Rouge finish in limping, muscle aching style!

Congrats to all of the Sledgehammer Charlie's team: Jeff, Big E, Bob, Chris, Bobby, Howard and all the others that I met today, but was too brain dead to fully grasp their names. See you guys in Salisbury! I'll post results and pictures as they come in...
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