Muckenthaler 'Cross, CA W35+, Lori Whynot, 9-18
Well despite all my recent excuses for not riding much or training for this year’s ‘Cross season, I dragged my sick and recently relocated, sorry self up to LA this past Sunday to race in the season’s and my first Cyclo-cross race, Southern California- style!
This was the first race in the SO-Cal Cross Prestige series, and I figured, fit or not, healthy or sick, I HAD to go check out the scene here and at least practice my ‘cross form and speed. It looks like I’ll be racing myself into shape this Fall.
Let’s just say, imagine Gloucester’s lovely course, minus the ocean, minus the sand pit, then add lush grass and 95 degree sweltering heat. This course offered a serpentined, yellow-tape maze, mostly on thick, dream-lawn grass, with a few dirt sections. There was mininal shade, and did I mention the HEAT? Oy. The course rolled up and down, with a downhill, not-too steep U-turn around a tree, back up and then winded into a shaded section with large moguls that made for a “roller-coaster like terrain for about 2 minutes. There were two barrier set ups, one on an incline with two UCI wooden barriers, the other on the far side of the course. The second barrier was a natural barrier- a short run of pavement into a 3 foot high retaining wall that held back a short dirt/grass hill. The promoters had set up a wooden step to get a good run at the retaining wall. Here is where my cross experience and dismount/remount skills gained me valuable time.
The race was held at a funky little estate- The Muckenthaler Museum, 1.5 hours north of San Diego in a town next to Anaheim, just south of LA. I opted to race the later and shorter 35+ women’s race, instead of the 11 AM W 1/2/3 race, given my bronchial distress. I had been sick with a horrible sinus infection and cold since last Monday- still haven’t cleared out all the junk in my lungs.
It was a great venue, and very well organized. The fields were small, however. I understand that ‘Cross is a grass-roots, rapidly growing sport here in southern, sunny California. I met a woman who I raced against at “Cross Nats last year- Dorothy Wong. She’s a well-established, skilled cross racer here, and she was very welcoming to me this past weekend. She remembered talking with me in Providence last December.
Anyway, my race was staged with the W3/4 field of 5 riders, and my W35+ field had a mere 3 riders.That at least guaranteed me podium, but my goal was to practice my form and go as hard as I could without losing form to pain and supra-AT ugliness.
At the whistle, three 3/4 women, me and another 35+ woman, Robin, took off and got a gap on the last few riders. We were altogether at first, but within the first lap, both Robin and I lost ground from the front 3. Since they were in a different race, I just focused on Robin. Immediately going into lap 2, after finishing two uphill sections on grass then on pavement, the heat was getting the best of me. I started to fall back from Robin a bit, but kept pushing. In the dismounts/remounts and on the descent U-turn is where I could gain more ground. Then I would blow up and have to ease back a bit. My head was SO hot, I thought it would explode. My sinuses were producing prolific crap, and my bronchial tubes were searing – you know that “I’ve got a cold and nothing can soothe this dry, rasping throat right now” feeling? A kind man on the sidelines in the feed zone handed me up a bottle in lap 3 and 4, which I dumped onto my head and drank about 1/3 before tossing it. This allowed my head and throat to cool down and by the second to last lap I was able to make my way back to Robin. At the retaining wall dismount and run up / remount I overtook her ; it was evident she was struggling with her smoothness on this section. I pulled into the lead for the rest of the lap, but in the second uphill before the final lap, I was once again completely overheated and having alot of difficulty breathing. Robin was not far behind me and ended up catching and coming around me, so I sat on her wheel going into the last lap. I felt like such crap here, was getting belly cramps and chills all over, so I eased up a bit and kept Robin in sight, about 100 yards ahead of me. I wasn’t able to work back up to her to take the win by the end of the last lap, but I was pretty pleased with the huge effort and my ability to keep good form throughout the race. Podium spots were guaranteed, and I finished 2nd about 15 seconds behind Robin. I won a case of Luna bars (peppermint chocolate, mmm), and some socks. Dorothy also introduced me as the new-to-town East Coast ‘Crosser when she called me to the podium.
It took all afternoon and night to start feeling better, most likely because my HR averaged 187- 10 beats over my AT for the whole 35 minutes, and I hit a crazy 207 max HR at one point. Let’s just say that I’ve never seen so many Elvis sightings in a race since the old Tour of the Quabbin road race. And Elvis was looking as bad as ever.
In any case, the W123 fields are smaller here than back East, but there are some pretty strong riders. I plan to race in that field when I can, and if possible, do 2 races in a day when I have built up a bit more stamina. I’m definitely looking forward to cooler temperatures here, which come some time next month. 95 degree heat and blazing sun just doesn’t mix with ‘cross!
Greetings to all back East- perhaps I’ll see some of you on my visit in early October. (gotta get the leaf-peeping fix!!)