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Friday, November 12, 2010

The pain cave

During a twisty bit
As a way to jump start my cycling training for Abu Dhabi, i decided to partake in the second of a three race cyclocross series being held locally here in Grand Forks last weekend.  I'd never done cyclocross before but had heard about how tough it was from my brother in law, John, who's a top amateur on the circuit out in Idaho.  I don't own a cyclocross specific bike so i decided to show up on my frankenstein mountain bike and do what i could.  Sporting a vintage proflex frame, an old Noleen ELT front shock and an elastomer rear one, the bike is a classic.  Unfortunately it had recently suffered some abuse at the hands of a visiting racer in our fall adventure race.  In an effort to make it rideable i'd removed the front brakes and front derailleur - i could still 'shift' between the front chain rings but only by hand - something not really conducive to a race situation.  Pre-riding a section of the course i decided i'd stick with the middle chain ring and just dismount and run up the sections where the course climbed steeply up the dike.  A quick lesson from Erik Sanders on how to do a running dismount for the obligitory low hurdles section of the course and i was set to go.

Exploring the pain cave, looking for a way out.
 Right off the bat i ran into trouble, bouncing the chain off of front rings 1 minute into the race.  Stopping to put it back on had me bringing up the rear - 10th out of 10 in the 'advanced' category (which just means more laps as the course is the same).  Half way through the first lap the chain bounced again, but this time settled on the smallest chain ring.  Rather than stop again i just figured i'd ride this way as long as possible - it was fine for 75-80% of the course and only slightly slower (I was still spinning while in the biggest rear cog) for the rest.  I pushed hard - suffering so much in the first two laps I wasn't sure how i'd make 8 of them. 

Charging after Sanders (to no avail)

The field spread out a bit and i quickly caught and passed 4 riders but could make no headway on the other 5 - three of whom had cross bikes (and of course they were good riders).  I rode the rest of the race by myself, gaining a bit on those i'd passed each lap and losing a bit on those ahead of me.  By the fourth lap i'd settled into a rhythm and knew i'd be fine and set a goal of keeping my lap time under 7:30 and not getting lapped.  The course fun - a good mix of flatish, faster sections, steep hills, and sharp twists between the trees.  My heart-rate was always changing, resulting in something that felt like a solid interval workout. 

The race ends when the lead rider does 2 laps more than the lap he's on at 45 minutes.  During the ride i kept thinking i'd only have to do 8 laps, but as it turns out i did 9.  I went for broke on the last lap and it took it's toll - my lungs burned deeply for what seemed like a long time after finishing.  It was a perfect race to use for training, particularly the high intensity type of training that i favor - short enough to allow it to be part of a training week and motivating enough to ensure a hell of a session.  Hats off to the folks at the UND cycling club for doing such a great job of setting up the event and creating such a friendly and accomodating vibe.

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