And I didn't like that.
Not one bit.
But I entered anyways.
You see, my significant other has a significant job - that requires a significant amount of travel during this significant time of year. To maintain a significant balance in our relationship it is only fair to allow significant latitude - especially given the significant number of mountain bike races I have pursued this year.
Luckily (I think) - my sister lives about 15 minutes away. The little one gets to hang with her aunt and I gets to race!! Not to mention - Look Park is pretty damn sweet. Although the bumper boats and train were not in operation, my daughter was thrilled to be romping around outside on such a nice day.
So about that
Sitting pretty at the second to last row the guys at the back warbled and chattered about our predicament. "What are you doing back here??!" to a couple of strong looking guys behind me. "I like to register at the very last moment!!" "You have to have some kind of weird obsession to willingly put yourself in this position!!" Etc, etc...
The big guy with the clipboard commands every ones attention and announces: "We don't want what happened yesterday to happen again!!" - "When the start goes off, *do not* take off like a bullet and cause a 40 man pile-up!!" - "There's plenty of time to sort things out after the first lap!!"
So we take off. After watching 100+ other riders take off that is... We get moving by the time the leaders have nearly approached the second turn - a mere... 10,000' or so ahead. That's exaggerating a touch - but it was nuts!
Not wanting to cause any trouble I kinda get going - maintaining my spot while letting an eager beaver or two whiz past. Pshaww! I'll get em' in a few minutes right? Heading around the bends at the end of straight-away number one I zip past a rider here and there - then we get to the sand pit. Oooh!! Me likey!! - At least a half dozen guys are bound up and walking. I saw somewhere on the Internet the best line through a sand trap is along an existing line. It works!! Presto - instant 1/2 dozen dudes passed. I do lose a good line exiting the second pit - but muscle through.
Well ahead we can see the leaders have tripped up on the "run-up" hill. Great. Everyone is jam packed behind leaving riders with no choice but to walk before the little chicane prior to the climb. This is quite like a mountain bike race where one of those "all power no skillz" dudes gets the hole shot - only 6 times worse based on the head count.
Finally - after the hill things start to spread out a little. While winding through the woods on the upper level of the course we can hear the announcer calling out the drama taking place in the lower level. You know, about a 1/2 lap or so ahead.
As we progress one is able to start assessing the best spots to drop the hammer & pass. Oddly enough, despite my lackluster mountain bike track record on the climbs - alot of guys really don't peg the uphills. Sweet!! Here and there I'm catching riders. On occasion I'll pass another rider and they'll "retaliate" but the love only lasts so long. I "retaliate back" and then really open it up to make sure they get the point. All along, wondering how much juice to ration.
One of my favorite little passing zones that my sister caught:
My sister and daughter can be heard cheering me on - and in key areas (like past the Bikeman tent - heh!) I'm at full throttle passing 3-5 riders at a time. Whee!! I'm getting near the front - right??
Not really. Despite continued zoomy efforts throughout the race - I think this was lap 4:
Passes are getting less and less aggressive while approaching riders near the same level, but I am not getting passed anymore. Going into a few straights I can hear recently passed riders behind ramping up the efforts to slingshot by. The answer is "nuh-uh". Although the race is 45 minutes long - endurance man is starting to poke his head out. If only the race lasted another 4 hours...
Final result. Drum roll please...
Are you frigging kidding?
I might have legitimately passed 50 guys - but doing the CAT3 races without a call-up doesn't make any sense unless you can commit to a full season. Alec P was right - the Masters 35+ race is where it's at. Not only does one have plenty of room to move - you get to ride amongst some truly heavy hitters. I'd rather be eaten alive by monsters than deal with Black Flies.
In the last race I was fairly evenly matched with Sally Annis. Maybe I was having a fast day, maybe she a slow one. But.... BUT!! If I were to have matched her today - that would have netted maybe 16th or so. A heckuva lot better than seventy-freaking-second.
After the race - I tried that walking thing. Seems the twisting effort of hoisting the bike and stomping over the barriers did a number on an old back injury. It'll come around - but helps underline how important it will be to lose some weight (gained about 10lbs while my wife has been traveling = no commuting) and maybe doing some Pilates or something to build the core. Last year I participated in a cross-training routine with co-workers that included some core work. I am certain it went a long way in preventing the same back problems that happened today. At least that's the plan.
The venue itself was really nice. Lots of activities and wares to check out. I'll have to do it again next year, only it will be with the "sorta" old guys.
Some parting shots - courtesy the little one:
To heck with dad - check out the dog!
I love this place!!