Coonamesset EcoCross - Women's Report
Contrary to what we all believed the weather would be, in Falmouth it was cold, damp and rained for a portion of all of the races. Temps never got to the predicted 60s, so everyone was reasonably cold, especially with start delays for most fields. At times, the rain was pretty significant, which rendered later races muddy and pretty slippery.
This course is very technical – more of a mountain bike course really than something you would find for ‘cross. The course runs through a working farm, so besides riding between the rows of blueberries and through the cucumber and pumpkin patches, you also pass the donkeys, ducks and alpacas, through a long sand pit, and up two loose, sandy/muddy run-ups. There is also a section of the course that skirts a paddock – the trail is narrow with 90 degree turns that have a fence on one side, and trees on the other, leaving little more than a bike width of trail!
The changes for this year included a different starting location, which caused confusion for some racers – we started and took a LEFT on the course where on every subsequent lap, we took a RIGHT; the run-up (which became a mud bog later in the day) was completely non-rideable this year with the addition of some well-placed logs and boards; and the section of garden before the barriers was removed.
Of course, the crowd all gathered under the buildings where the barriers went through the “beer tent” in a gravel section – always a crowd favorite at this race (although it is important to note that the barriers are not regulation distance apart).
Results (not posted as of 10/8):
- Michele Archambault
- Jean Cunningham
- Kathy Graves
- Cathy Rowell (13th?)
- Teri Carilli
- Julie Lockhart
I didn’t really have a lot going for me as I set out for this race. Based on some logistical difficulties, I only got to preview about 1/3 of the course before I started in the very back of the pack. This was not a course for either of those things. I was in for a lot of surprises on the twisty turny single track, and it was extremely difficult to pass people. They started the whole group together (Men Cat 4, juniors, and Women Cat 4). It might have made the start a little less chaotic if they had left 30 seconds between us like usual.
On a sandy gravelly downhill, I did a poor job braking while trying to turn, and smacked right into a fence. My handlebars were pushed back, and left my brakes in a very awkward position for the rest of the race. Oh, and it started to rain at some point. I’m pretty sure the only place in all of New England it was raining was right over Alchemy Farm.
I’m not aggressive at passing to begin with, so this course was tough for me. If you got caught behind someone, it could be a while before there was a good place to get by them. As we pointed out later, the good passing spots were: by the rotting cucumbers; near the squashes, and in front of the llamas (seriously). I was also unsure what to do with the sand trap/hill. Ride part and run the rest, or just get off and run the whole darn thing. I tried both methods, but still couldn’t make up my mind. Despite the difficulties, I really liked the course. It was slow, but that works for me. I learn something new each race, and am having a great time.
When rain drops began splattering the windshield on the drive down, I got the feeling that the day might not turn out as planned. And indeed, I had misgivings about the course and the race from the get-go. Personal spiral of gloom? Perhaps. But sometimes you can’t fight what you’re feeling. There were lots of things to like about Coonamesset… llamas, geese, and burros; organic gardens; hot food and coffee and beer. Then there was the course: tight and technical. I pre-rode two laps and was able to figure out the right lines for many of the harder spots (to me), and happily the gravel area got nicely packed down and thus easy to navigate (except when on lap 3 I encountered one of the men splayed across it). But I almost didn’t register, and when it came time to start I was last off the line. I spent the race in my own zone, mortified that there were spectators at the barriers as I clumsily dismounted (and then slowly got back on—nothing even close to a remount of) my bike. I was able to pass just a few women, one of whom beforehand seemed to be intentionally slowing just before each rise—an attempt to break my momentum? I don’t know how people feel about that tactic, but it frustrated me enough that I was determined to leave her behind. I ended up having an ok time by the end, and focused on trying better lines and techniques as I went along. Michele and Kathy both looked great, easily riding some areas that frustrated me. Always nice to have other NEBC jerseys on the start line! My big goal now is the remount… despite many patient attempts to teach me how to do this, I seem to have a combination of a mental and physical block. All suggestions would be welcome. Thanks to all, as always, who were there cheering. It always provides a boost at just the right time. Hope to see everyone at Gloucester!
For lots of reasons, I didn’t really feel like racing on Sunday. It was cold and rainy, and prior to the start of the women’s race, I had watched in horror as Mike nearly broke his arm hitting the barriers (he ended up being ok, and finished his race).
I did an early course lap to see what changes were in store from the previous two years, and learned that they were fairly minor. The course looked good, and I retreated to the barrier section to attempt to stary dry and somewhat warm before our race. Warm-up? Didn’t happen! Part of the issue was that they were running late with the start times, and we didn’t know exactly when our race was…
After the Masters race finished (and I checked to be sure that Mike really was ok), Teri and I won the race to the race – landing ourselves in the front row for the start. Of course we were there so long we were shivering, but at least we won that race, right? ;-) I got a good start, but was immediately slowed by two racers going down in a muddy turn directly in front of me. The course had changed SIGNIFICANTLY since my pre-ride with all of the rain and traffic. Being cautious wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I didn’t want to end up hurt before Gloucester.
I managed to pass a few women, and got passed by a couple as well. Primarily, it was an issue of keeping the tires on the ground for many – the slippery course caused quite a few riders to end up splayed across the course. I was doing “reasonably” well, and was holding off Julie L. from IBC as I went into the barrier section. As I remounted, a junior intent on racing for 5th place with no one around us decided to try and pass me coming out of the barriers and through the very narrow archway, pushing me into the arch. I pushed back, staying upright, he pushed me again, and I ended up going down in the loose gravel, and losing 2 places in the race. Not a cool move on the junior’s part for sure, but nothing I could do about it.
My major goal for the race was not to get lapped. Last year, both the junior leader, and the women’s leader (Rebecca) lapped me on this course. As I was coming through the finish for my final lap, I could hear that Manny Goguen was behind me and about to finish. Determined to suffer through one more lap, I went as hard as I could to cross the line before he did, knowing that all that were still on the course behind me would no longer be a threat. I eased through the final lap with some weird noises coming from the bike (it was my first ride on carbon rims with tubulars, and it really sounded as if the cassette was off the hub), and finished somewhere around 13th. Not great, but I did achieve my goal, and would have remainied upright through the race if not being forcibly taken out.
You know the saying, “Go big or go home!”? I should have stayed home. I had never done this race before and had heard that the course was twisty, technical and more like a mtb course than a cross course. Not sure I’d agree with the last part but it was definitely more along what I like in a course (lots of tight, twisty turns) and no long grassy slog sections. I was excited to race until I got there and it was raining. So, with the rain, plus parking 1/2 mile away, and a race delay of an hour due to a schedule change and a medical situation, I was shivering uncontrollably by the time I rolled up to the start line. I knew right there I didn’t feel like racing. Goals were adjusted according: ride safely in the mud, get a good workout, don’t worry about results, try not to get lapped by the women’s leader.
At the start, I let the fast girls go. Three crashes happened in the first half mile, one of them forcing me off my bike. The juniors started passing me by the start of the second lap, I think. That always makes things interesting, especially on a course where passing was a bit tight in many places. By the third lap, I actually started enjoying myself but still just didn’t feel like going all out. By the end (I was lapped by the junior winner and so finished one lap down) I felt like I still had a lot left – definitely didn’t ride hard enough. I’d like to think that maybe I can save some of that for next weekend at Gloucester. ;-)
First thought – Not to go, Second thought … I love the venue, and I learn so much about myself. Ahh then the rub … have to be cannon fodder in the 1/2/3. Goals, learn and have fun. Well, how much fun is it to be soaking wet when the race finally started about half an hour late? Actually, quite fun. Challenging muddy places and slippery entries to descents … totally cool, I was able to keep warm on effort, and adjust to the changing conditions. All was good. Interestingly, the early warm up was totally different than the actual race conditions.