Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report: Charm City Cross 2012

"Charm City" they call it. Both the race and the city that is. Yes the race is awesome and worth the 3+ hour drive from Northern NJ.  Baltimore the city, maybe not as awesome.  But our friends down at C3/Twenty20 Cycling put on a really top notch event so down we drove: six adult humans, one toddler human, nine bikes, twelve sets of wheels and one loaf of Green's Cinnamon Babka (the official unoffical post-race loaf cake of team MTBNJ.com)

I booked hotel rooms for us and made sure get a "room with a view" for our newly engaged lovebirds Pandi.
We arrive to the hotel late and cram all of our humanity and bikes into a the tiny hotel room, but not before Norm and Allison change their outfits to be all "matchy matchy".  Bikes do fit quite nicely in a shower, BTW.

Day 1:
Saturday arrives too soon we lollygag while Pandi leaves early to make the 3 mile trek up to Druid Park or Stonehenge or wherever the race was.  They staked out a money location right at a surprisingly tricky (this will come back in a minute) 180-degree turn in the baseball field for the MTBNJ.com tent.

Norm, Utah and I pre-ride the course with Pearl and I immediately like the course.  Lots of on/off the bike and a good amount of elevation change.  We watch as Pearl starts from the DFL-row in the Cat 4 field and and passes something like 90 people, which is really an impressive feat.  Then Allison and Mandi race. Mandi gets angry at an authority figure and goes fast. Allison rides steady and clean into 6th. Then Norm races 35+ and forgets to tell his body that rest week is over. Utah passes something like 60 people (also starting from DFL) for a solid finish.

Before I know it I've handed off the child-man to Allison and it's time to go. I finally have the luxury of a good call-up this week after the Nittany races and start on the first row.  A decent start puts me solidly within the top 8-10 around the first lap but 1-2-3 are off the front. I know two of the three guys up there including Jerry Troiano, who I've lost to many times before.  As a side note, according to some clever crossresults.com datamining "Resultsboy" Colin Reuter himself (who I think happens to write some of the better race reports on the interwebs) "If you're a Cat 3 or Cat 4 on the East Coast, Jerry probably beat you at some point last year. "  Truth.

I'm in no-man's land most of the middle of the race.  Dangling 8-15 seconds off the lead group of three with 10 or so seconds to the 5th place guy.  My awesome pit crew and teammates keep counting out the time gaps.  15-12-10-8-5 seconds.  Visions of Ultegra groupsets dance in my head (winner of the 2/3/4 race was going to win a full Ultegra groupset courtesy of Shimano. Bam!) and I make contact with the lead group with 1.5 to go.

I sit in the group for a lap or so trying to plan the end game but we are thick into the lap traffic so just making it around the course clean is quickly becoming a challenge.  We hit the baseball field more or less together as a group of 4 and on the 180 right in front of our team tent #3 guy washes out his front wheel and crashes (probably due, at least to some extent, to lap traffic). I squeak by and we all jump on the power. His will is broken at this point and he's immediately off the back so now it's just three of us. I know whoever hits the barriers first will be first onto the pavement and probably win but Jerry and the other guy Garret are too strong and I don't have anything left to make a move.  3rd!  I figured I wouldn't see a podium at all this year so I am ecstatic.

Day 2:
Pearl passes 100 people again. Allison races better (beats a few of the people she lost to on Saturday). Mandi has a breakout race. Norm looks strong but the field is stronger Sunday.

I get a front row call-up again and decide I'm going for the hole shot. The whistle blows and I blow shit up playstation style on the first lap.  Then I totally blow up.  Guys pass me and I've got no gas to hang on wheels. I've got no acceleration out of turns and can't climb. By lap 2 I've lost about 7 spots and just keep getting gapped.  I do my best to ride clean, ride the sand, rail corners but I can hardly get out of my own way.  I salvage 9th but just barely.

A Tale of 2 races:
Day 1: Heart rate average 181 (pretty normal cx numbers)
Day 2: Heart rate average 171 (way low) and never got above 174.  Something was definitely wrong. The effort felt harder yet I went slower.  Norm thinks I didn't eat enough Babka.  I tend to think he's right.  I'm wondering if it has to do with dehydration?  Hopefully science will give us an answer.

I got to meet a few cool new people including Fatmarc Vanderbacon from the internet and hang with the team.  Definitely a great weekend of racing. Who cares if "Charm City" is some slogan made up by advertising executives in the 1970's. Next year, Do Charm City sons!

Next up is Providence in 2 weeks!

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