Monday, February 22, 2010

Finish Line

Yes, I crossed it. Not where I wanted to be, but at least I got out there and did it. The 2010 Winter Short Track Series is over, and I survived. It was a rude awakening for me for sure, but I learned a lot in the process. Mostly I learned that no matter how much inside riding I do, I will never be able to get into any kind of “racing shape” with that kind of riding alone. Although I had no choice due to weather and scheduling conflicts, I did what I could. Now I’m happy to say that I don’t plan on riding indoors for a long time. F you, X-Bike. Hopefully next winter I can come up with a better training plan.

Race five was on Saturday, and it was more of the same for me. The only saving grace was the fact that we had nice weather. It wasn’t too cold, and the trails had been rain-free for a few days. Even though I thought the trail condiitons would be better this week, I opted not to bring out the good bike, Goose. I would go out in a blaze of glory on the Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth. This bike has been less than great for me for this series, but it hasn’t been the only reason I suffered. I learned some hard lessons, but they were valuable lessons to say the least.

I arrived on site early Saturday morning, and there were a lot more people there this time. I took a couple of warm up laps, and I really liked the trail conditions. There were a few sloppy spots, but overall it was pretty fast. I pulled up to the start line, and planned on my usual middle-of-the-pack strategy. I would take off at a moderate pace, and hang on.

When the race started, I got on the trail in about mid-pack (just as planned). I followed the group pretty well, and enjoyed the speed and non-muddiness of the trail. The swooping downhills and turns were fast, and I was able to handle the bike pretty well. When I came out of the trail on the first lap, I felt pretty good. I took the fire road climb at a decent speed, actually shifting the gears as I moved up the hill. This would be short-lived, however. I passed the start/finish line in roughly the same position as I started.

Lap two sucked the big one. About halfway through the trail, I started to get some kind of cramp in my stomach. I had been feeling a little shitty the day before, so I thought that maybe I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me. I pressed on, but so did the pain. I came out onto the fire road, and that’s when it hit me hard. Some of the people behind me now had a chance to get by. I had no choice but to back off a little and let them go, but I wondered if I could hang on for the whole race. By this time the pain had spread to my right side. I crossed the line after lap two, and I just wanted it to be over.

As lap three went on, I started to feel better. I wasn’t out of breath for once, and I chalked that up to a good warm-up. As the pain slowly went away on the third lap, I pressed on. I ramped it up a bit to gain some ground, but the pack had left me. There were some other racers behind me, but I wasn’t too worried. If I could maintain my current speed, I wouldn’t be in any danger of losing more ground. I had dug myself a pretty big hole though. Lap three was over, and I began picking up a little speed.

On lap four, I began to feel “normal”, whatever the hell that was. About halfway through the trail, a buddy of mine in the next class came up on my rear wheel. I let him go by, and I tried to stick with him. That actually helped me, and we kept each other going. I let him pull me around through the rest of the race, picking up speed the whole time. At this pace, I was destined to finish ahead of the rest of the group. When the “final lap” announcement was made, we picked it up. I stuck to him like glue, up until the fire road climb. He turned around and said, “Is that still you, Chris?” I said “Yup, and on your right.” I passed him on the final climb, and told him to hang on. I pulled him up to the finish line, where we came in with a pretty good sprint.

When it was all said and done, I managed an 18th place finish, out of 26 riders. While it wasn’t my best performance, I was somewhat pleased. The start to my season has been pretty rough, and I was glad that this series was over. As usual, I hung around to help with volunteer duties, and to watch the rest of the races. I spent some time on the trail, standing by in case some first aid assisitance was needed.

That part of the day turned out to be pretty busy. There were several injuries. One of the junior riders had what I suspected to be a broken arm, a female rider sustained a face injury, and one of the Super-Sport guys hurt his collarbone. The last two of these required outside medical assistance, since I am merely a first responder. The kid with the alleged broken arm should have gotten medical attention, but I’m not sure if he ever did. As far as I know, everyone will be fine. The course had gotten much faster throughout the day, so I can imagine that there were more crashes than that. I can’t be everywhere at once, you know.

We ended this day with a trip to East Boulevard Bar and Grill for the awards ceremony. Lunchbox and I chowed down on some appetizers and I enjoyed a good ol’ Sweetwater 420. While I didn’t do well enough in the series to merit any kind of award (there’s no award for suckitude), it was nice to close out the series with a little party. A few of us even discussed riding plans for the next day. I’ll fill you in on that one tomorrow.

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