2010 Cyclocross Races 2 and 3: Sucker Brook , Auburn, NH

“I need to meet some strange men,” Elise informed me last week.

“Um, OK. Anything in particular going on?” I really couldn’t figure out where she was going with that, and I figured I had about a 67% chance of not liking it.

“It’s Oreo. He’s afraid of guys. We need to practice meeting men.”

Oh good, it’s just the dog. “Well, ya know, it doesn’t get much stranger than cross racers…”

Thus hatched the plan for the whole family to head up to Auburn for Sucker Brook Cross 2010. Andrew had been bugging me to do a kids race for a while, and Mags, well, Mags came along for the ride.

Sucker Brook was my first race last year, maybe my 4th race ever, and is one of the least technical courses on the local calendar. It’s flat and fast. This is generally a Good Thing for me, because I don’t do well in technical races. And by “technical,” I mean “anything with more than one 90-degree turn.” This year, feeling that I’d stepped up my training and skill a bit, I decided to double up and race both the Cat 4 and the 3/4 35+ groups. The 4s race was only 30 minutes, and I’d have 30 more minutes after that to recover before my second race, so what’s the problem?

Andrew did a warmup lap with me on the big boy course. He had to walk a lot, but he did fine. We came around and couldn’t find the girls, and I felt the itch to get a faster lap in, so he did a second lap on his own. When he came around again I dropped him off with E at the sand pit (conveniently located in a playground). E met a couple folks, worked on Oreo not barking his head off when a strange guy approached, and generally remained calm.
This year’s course added a log-barrier section after the fire road (which used to go through a forest, but now goes through a sad moonscape that used to be a forest) and raised the sand-pit difficulty by putting the U-turn in the pit, instead of on the grass beside the pit. Oh, and somebody sucked every last drop of moisture out of the soil. Rather than waste more words on course description, here’s the lazyweb version:

Sucker Brook ‘Cross cat 3 lap 1 from Threshold Cycling on Vimeo.

That’s exactly what I saw, except that video looks like it’s on fast-forward compared to what I experienced.

I started in the 4th or 5th row of the 4s, and felt like I got a good start until we got through the first corner and guys were still coming around me. I was still carrying a good bit of the cold I picked up last week, so maybe that slowed me down a bit, but…dang, racers, why can’t I hold position in the first 500 meters? I made it through the twisty bits, up the stairs to the up-down-hairpin-up combo before the loose camber section and promptly fell over when my front wheel washed out in the sand. GET BACK ON YOUR BIKE! Bomb down the fire road, through the loose corner, and up to the log. Am I even thinking about riding the log? No. Over the log, remount – dammit, where’d my pedal go? Too late. Dead stop.

I think I’m starting to see what my problem might be.

I made it up a few places, even did some actual RACING when passing a few guys in the twisty bits, but didn’t manage to claw my way back into the top half of the race. Snot streaming down my face, tongue hanging out and seemingly three times its normal size, I did have the presence of mind to look behind me and call off the sprint when I didn’t have anybody sneaking up on me at the finish.

Hey, I get to do this again in half an hour? Lovely. Oh, except this one is ten minutes longer. That didn’t go any better. After the first turn, I nearly yacked up the Clif blocks I ate between races, but managed to keep them down. While distracted by that, I didn’t really notice when I let the race ride away from me, but at that point I didn’t much care, either. On the third lap or so I managed to kick my rear brake into my spokes on a remount, which took me a minute or so to untangle. The sand pit, which I managed to ride partially in the first race, proved too much. There’s a video floating around of me mincing like a schoolgirl through the sand. Don’t watch it on a full stomach.

Fortunately, the kids fared much better. The kids race took place on the soccer field, a twisty little course marked out with tiny orange flags and a couple of railroad-tie barriers. Andrew grabbed the hole shot in a field of 10 kids or so, then lost his advantage when another kid on an MTB was able to ride the railroad ties. He managed to hang on for 2nd. Mags used her technical advantage – training wheels – to lay waste to two other kids on tricycles. I think she slept with her medal last night. They both got to practice their podium poses.

The second race probably destroyed any chance of improving my start position for Gloucester this weekend. On the other hand, making it to the start at all will be a refreshing change of pace. Last year I’d managed to injure myself badly enough that I couldn’t start. I still have a few days to screw it up, but it looks like I’ll get to show my face at the New England World Championships this year. Now all I have to do is stuff my fear way down and go harder than I’ve ever gone.