Men are from Larz

A fortuitous set of circumstances gave me a rare treat this week – Tuesday and Wednesday without the need to wrangle kids in the morning, as well as cyclocross practice sessions scheduled for both mornings. The catch? Getting up at 5:00 to leave the house by 6:30 so I could scoot up to Larz Anderson park in Brookline in time to meet the group.Oh, and then figuring out how to clean up enough for work without the benefit of a shower in the office.
No problem, I’ll trade sleep for the chance to ride with folks who are way faster than I am on the grass. I set off at 5am yesterday (in the car, unfortunately), baby wipes and deodorant tucked in my bag. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated by Larz. Last year, I had one opportunity to get up there, about two weeks before Gloucester. I got about three minutes into the warm-up lap, dismounted for the stairs, and my calf went “pop.” Major calf strain, no Gloucester for me. That injury dogged me through December, actually. I sure didn’t want that again.
Rosey and company have come up with a different course that crams about 10 km of bike driving into a 1.5 km lap. We just have a few cones to mark the course, but a simple rule helped me stay with it: if you see a tree, turn 180 clockwise around it. Go 180 counterclockwise around the next tree. Repeat until you come back to the barriers. The big set of stairs has been replaced with a grassy slope. The weather also ran about 30 degrees warmer and a million percent humidity higher than last year, too, all conspiring to keep my muscles nice and loose. No calf pops. I ran the slope on all the hot laps on Tuesday, but other guys were riding it (and passing me in the process).
I thought about heading down to Wrentham today for the evening training race, but I decided I needed to get back to Larz and ride that slope. I showed up a little early this morning so I could practice before practice. As I was setting up the bike, a woman rode up, introduced herself and said it was her first time there. She followed me over to the slope, and while I circled at the bottom, she cleaned it on the first try. Turns out that women are from Larz, too. I attacked it, found a patch of loose dirt and fell over. Then I had to ride back to the car to get my wrenches and straighten out my handlebars. But after that, I found the line. Hey, maybe I can do this after all…
As we did yesterday, we started with a set of 3 laps, rested for a bit and then did 2 more. 3 laps took me just under 20 minutes, and I was ready to puke by the end of lap 2. We had a much bigger crowd today, though, and I seemed to be in pretty good company with the pukitude. Riding the slope (which I managed to do on all the hot laps) rather than running helped me keep things under control, but there’s a lot of climbing on that lap no matter how you do it. And oh, the turns! A tight chicane, fast downhill corner, a short but tricky double set of stairs, and more tree turns than I can remember. I have lots of ideas for setting up my own practice now, but I don’t have access to terrain like Larz.
This may have been my last chance at Larz for the year – I want to hit the Wrentham race next week, because I’ve never done it, and after that I’m back to wrangling kids on Wednesday mornings. But even just these two sessions helped me out. I’m loving the feel of the new bike, and I can’t wait for the first race. Just 10 more days…