As quickly as it started it finished. The 2011 bicycle racing season is, for us, done. For me, it went out with a less of a bang and more of a groan. I finally realized that I don't have the fitness or endurance any longer to do two cyclocross races in one day. This was a hard learned lesson that resulted in less than stellar performances in events on two weekends in a row.
In the past it seemed that I could handle this. Yes, the second event always hurt but so did the first event. In fact, I've had some of my best days ever on days when I did two races in one day. That was not the case this year though. Throughout the course of any given cyclocross season I will usually only double up a few times. This year there were a far greater number of single-speed cyclocross (SSCX) races than at any point in the past. I just can't pass those things up so this led to me racing twice at those events. I think I did like five doubles this fall. Through the course of the season the second race of the day got more and more painful and I found myself doing worse and worse. I guess that I'm getting old or something or maybe my fitness and endurance just aren't up to snuff. Regardless, lets tag this one as lesson learned. Next year, one race is enough, really, I mean it this time.
So, in terms of races, we cruised right into and through Ice Weasels. Great race, fun course and a good time in general. I did the Elite race and then the SSCX race right after (back to back). This was, in a word, brutal. I got the worst start ever in the Elite race and killed myself trying to catch. It never happened but I did get really tired trying. Then right into the SSCX race I got another terrible start and had to chase. It was tough going and by the last few laps I was cramping up hard. I managed to hold on for 4th place and 3rd overall in the Zanc series, I think. The race was a bunch of fun though and the course changes were a hoot. The beer was once again gone by the time we finished racing though. The only damper on the race was the number of people who felt that this was less a race and more an excuse to be an obnoxious drunk. People were stopping in the middle of the course in front of you to take beer hand-ups and then getting upset if you took note of it. I literally almost cleaned some lapped goob out who came to a complete stop in front of me in the barriers. This is a race, I paid money to enter this race. I want to race my bike. There is plenty of time to drink after the race. If you would rather drink beer than race your bike, perhaps a bar rather than a bike race would be a better place to spend your time and money.
This past weekend was the final cyclocross event in New England, the regional championships. I once again decided to race two races with the SSCX race early in the AM and the Elite Masters 35+ race last up in the afternoon. I really wanted to do well in the SSCX race and felt that my chances were pretty good given the people that were registered, or rather, who were not. That said, my long time nemesis Matt has been killing me all season and was my choice for the favorite. Also there was SS MTB hero James, who I have raced cyclocross with a few times on gears but never SSCX I think. He was the wildcard. Shawn was another wildcard. I knew he could motor if the conditions were right. This was going to be a good race, regardless.
Off the start, a couple rotations in I clipped out of my pedal during a hard pedal stroke. This sent me back a long, long ways and forced me to chase. This is really getting to be a disconcerting common theme here. I managed to get up into the top five by the time we hit the sand, entering right behind Shawn. Unfortunately, he wiped out in front of me. I dismounted and ran literally over him, only losing a couple places. More chasing and I was back on track.
In the next lap, Matt was running hard off the front and I caught up to James, not too far from Matt and chasing hard. Entering the sand I figured that James would have it pegged. I was wrong and he endo'd dramatically sending the bike into my face. I managed to get my hand out, which ran through the spokes of the ream wheel. My left ankle slammed into some part of the bike as well and I hit the sand. We both got up and sorted out and I exited first with James right behind me. The crash had left my already cold left hand with two completely numb fingers, the ones that got raked by the rear wheel. My left ankle was also getting stiff and I could feel it swelling. This took a bunch of wind out of my sails and James changed past me chasing Matt.
Within a lap or so James was up to Matt and rode right through him. I trailed back now chasing Matt and trying to get the motivation back. Seeing Matt ahead was enough and I got moving again. Back the weekend before at Ice Weasels, by the half way point in the SSCX race I was too tired to get off my bike so started hopping the mini-barriers. I managed to gain confidence and went faster and faster each time, by the end actually going through them faster than most could run them. This carried through to the Regionals race, where there was a similar set of double mini-barriers. They had a good flat and fast run in so I was hitting them really fast. This opened big gaps. That came into play when I caught Matt and was able to distance him. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch James, so finished up 2nd, the first loser, and missing the sweet SSCX Regional Champion jersey presented by the good folks at Verge.
A little later in the day Cathy was up for her SSCX race. She was wise and chose to do only one race. Actually, she has been doing this most of the year and in truth, could only do one race on Saturday based on the scheduling of the events. The night before as we were getting the bikes ready I decided that it was a shame that her really nice carbon cross bike with really nice carbon tubular wheels would sit idle for another year. I started searching for some slightly longer bolts to replace the limit screws on the rear derailleur, so I could lock it out. After much searching I found that Shimano MTB derailleur limit screws we longer than the road versions and that worked to lock the derailleur in place. I popped the cassette off the rear wheel and slammed a 17t Surly cog on with a spare Gussett spacer set and we were all set to roll with the 39t single ring up from which had inner and outer guides. Spiffy!
Anyhow, Cathy had a great race. She was a bit psyched out by on woman from NY but I tried to convince her she had advantages over that woman. Cathy raced hard and finished behind that woman but ahead of a number of women on geared bikes. This was good enough for a 2nd place finish, the team's second of the day. Fortunately though the winner was not a New England resident and thus, Cathy got the jersey and title as the regional champion, a distinction that is well deserved.
Last up on the day was my second race, the Elite Masters 35+ race. I was not terribly motivated after having already raced and run around the course spectating for hours. It was also getting cooler as the sun dipped lower in the sky. I'd paid the registration fee though so I was going to race and race I did. Off the line I decided to kill it and get a good start. It worked and by half way through the preview lap I was sitting in the pack, just behind some very heavy hitters. I was full of energy (possibly from the power gel I'd just consumed) and attacked hard before the barriers moving up into 4th. Coming out onto the track though the engine started to sputter. People started to pass me, a bunch of people.
After that attack I expected some separation but it wasn't to be. Immediately I lost half a dozen spots and we were just starting the first full lap. This was bad and bad it was. I contemplated giving up and quitting but kept riding around the course trying to minimize the damage. My legs were cramping and worthless. There was just no go left and I didn't really care. The season was over, at least as far as I was concerned, and after another forty minutes or so of suffering, it was over for real. Lesson learned.
It was a great season and I am sad that it is over. I'm now left with that feeling of purposelessness that always seems to rear its head once the racing is done for the year. Don't get me wrong, I am ready for a break and to do something different. I just always miss seeing everyone and having that convenient sense of purpose that steady racing gives us.
Until next year, Merry Christmas and have a great holiday season!