The term epic gets tossed around a lot these days, most often regarding burritos but I’m going out on a limb and proclaiming this last weekends De Stad Cup was indeed epic.
Talking about weather is something I steer clear of, I leave that to old men and the Weather Channel normally but I will briefly for the sake of this post. For the most part the mid-west has a dry autumn, which leaves a pretty dry ‘cross season much to the chagrin to many of the local ‘cross racers who look on in envy as our brothers and sisters in the Pacific Northwest and New England get to race in the most extreme conditions all the time. Sunday was our day to finally get the full ‘cross experience, just as it was meant to be, down and dirty.
Crazy conditions, going from fair to terrible faster than I can fall from my bicycle and bleed all over myself (more about that later). What was once was rideable during my warm up laps became ankle deep sticky as peanut butter like mud. So much for the white shoes. It becomes a test of bike handling skills and trying to find spots that haven’t gone bad to make up time for repeated falls. One second everything is going well, then next your sliding down a hill on your ass with your bike using you as a sled somehow still attached to your pedals.
My bike handling skills are questionable at best, I’m guilty of running into trees from time to time and venturing off the course through the tape. I often finish races with red streams of blood running down my legs as I did Sunday, I don’t recall where the wound came from I just recall looking down to see a stream of red running through the caked on mud. Add mud to the mix and my race is even more in peril, goodbye to my hopes of finishing in the top 10 in points, 11th place when the day was over. Getting your hands and bars wet then covered in a slimey / gooey mud did me in, worse than the falls. The mud and then the numb fingers made breaking and double tap shifting next to impossible, basically pick a gear and make the most of it, thank god for the cross top break leavers, I hardly ever use them but they saved my ass this day. Double tap shifting when you can’t feel your fingers is tricky, I lost count of the times I downshifted when I was wanting to do the opposite making things that much more difficult. Hopefully a better choice of gloves will solve this issue, that and not falling in the mud so much.
Gloves proved to be my Achilles heel / scape goat. I’ve finally learned what to pack for races, I actually had enough for two races, as was my plan but only one pair of gloves but two sets of everything else. I was planning on doing the Masters B race and possibly the 3-4 race, just so I could ride in the mud for 45 minutes, but the thought of going back out with those wet gloves and having my fingers freeze up again was a deal breaker. I’ll sit here in the gym and pick mud out of my ears. It’s too bad, I really wanted to go at it again, but there will be other days the season isn’t over.
Mud is as bad as sand, you think you’ve got it all washed off only to find more of it later. How it got in my ears I’ll never know, this is after two showers while I’m sitting at work Monday morning. Everything is clean now of course, the kit’s gone through the washing machine the bike went to the car wash on the way home and now is disturbingly bright, it looks as new as the day I first laid eyes on it. I only have the photos of mud now which never show just how difficult it was to race through, the stories of course will grow, the mud will get deeper, the temperature will drop but that is the way things are. I just wish my teammates could have been there to enjoy the misery with me. Unfortunately injuries have sidelined nearly everyone but me. Brian shattered his finger and is done for the season, Mike is nursing a bad back, and Pip has a sore shoulder.
No local races for a couple of weeks. I’m thinking of going up to Iowa and try my luck at Jingle Cross. Anyone want to go with me? It’s not that far and I have most of next week off anyway, it’s that or sit around eat and watch football all week.