Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Still cleaning the mud from my ears - Granogue and Wissahickon

It's Wednesday and I still haven't written race reports.  Guess it's just that kind of a week. Did the big double of Granogue and Wissahickon this weekend.


Granogue - a technical course with sweeping off camber turns, a significant downhill, and two steep run-ups.  This was a MAC series race, which means a big field mixed with the fast cat 3's.  I was shooting for top 50%, hoping for top 10.  It had poured rain for about 3 days leading into the race and I could tell without a pre-ride it was gonna be sloppy.  Warming up on the trainer, I was watching the B masters crash the downhill and (often) go through the tape... one after another.  Crazy.  Ours was the third race of the day and already there was no semblance of grass between the tape, just mud. After scrumming for a front row start, I drafted up the hill and pulled around at the top for the hole shot.  Seems like no one wanted to lead onto the grass, and while I knew it wasn't a sustainable position, I was happy to choose my own lines through the first couple of mud-infused turns.

I felt great on my bike.  And like crap off of it.  The run ups were sucking my shoes down into the mud and holding them there, it seemed.  I could barely get traction (I will find my spikes for the next muddy race!) and wound up crawling at least twice.  Remounts were miserable - I caught my shorts 3 times on the seat.  After the hole shot, I was passed a few times on the uphills and then wound up trading places for much of the race with Anne of Sturdy Girl - she was racing in the Master's category, so it was fun to go back and forth with her.

On the last lap, I laid it down fast on the first downhill after the start (headed back toward the parking area) and slid at least 15 feet through the slip-n-slide mud.  At least one onlooker cheered.  Hey, at least if I'm gonna crash, I did so with style.  Got up and had some trouble getting put back together - turns out there was so much mud on my left glove I could barely hold onto the hoods.

Later in the lap, I was riding the downhill well and a rider had dropped her chain and was on the rideable line.  I said something and, thankfully, she moved over about 3 inches.  That was all I needed - in retrospect, this was extra nice of her - we were racing against each other and nothing said she had to move out of the way to fix that chain.  But if she hadn't, I'm afraid I would have run smack into her!  I sprinted at the end, not knowing (or wanting to) who was behind me (turns out, no one) and wound up crossing the line about half a wheel behind Anne for 12th in the Cat 3/4 field.

Wissahickon -  It wasn't easy dragging myself out of bed after 3 Saturday night loads of laundry (a warm glove of mine missed out on load #2) and shoes drying on the heating vent...  We ventured to Dick's Saturday night for a tent - the possibility of rain and likelihood that I was gonna warm up on the trainer again made me bite the bullet.  Turns out, those things are cheaper than I thought.

We got to Wiss a bit later than I'd hoped - I had planned time for a quick lap then bike cleanup and warmup.  But alas, it was not to be.  I told myself that it was okay - nothing about muddy water coming off my back wheel is warm.  In fact, it leads to a condition known as cold butt.  In spinning out before the start I achieved that condition.  It was soon to be followed by cold feet after plowing them through 6 inch deep puddles in the sand.

On lap 1, I was regretting not pre-riding.  I had a mediocre start (from the front row, again) but got boxed out what felt like 15 times in the first 3 turns, including once where I was unceremoniously pushed into a shin-height wooden fence.  Grunting at the woman who did this to me yielded a bit more space, so I wasn't resigned to the fate of men in other races who wound up crashing over it.  Getting pushed into tape I'm okay with.  Immovable objects... not so much.

About halfway through lap 1 of 4, my rear derailleur pooped out.  It just wasn't interested in shifting.  Arg.  Luckily, I've got it geared 36-46 in the front with enough chain to cross shift, so at least I had two gears for the remainder of the race.  I was, however, spun out on the road sections.  On a pitchy little hill just after the sandpits I managed to ride it while being pushed into the tape - fun!  It was a great move by whomever was doing it - she forced me into a harder line but I managed to ride it anyway.  On subsequent laps I would generally spin out partway up that hill.

The spiral of death at Wiss was truly that - mud and a slight hill makes that feature way more interesting.  Everyone crashed in here it seemed, including me - I laid it down at least twice in the spiral.  And the runup after the barriers was tough - slippery that I could barely get traction, but with a decent high speed dismount.  In all, lots of fun off camber and a few tricky little downhills that begged for attention.

By the last lap I was racing against one other woman who I managed to beat up the pitchy hill but then crashed on an off camber and she gapped me.  No legs or gears left for the sprint, I wound up 15th out of 34 on the day.  I'm pleased but not thrilled with that.  Tactically not my best race, but with the shifting troubles and gummy legs from Saturday's effort, I'm happy I did that well.

As I said, Epic.

Pics from Joe Mallis, Shea, and Cycling Captured


  1. What a muddy mess Wissahickon was! It was hard staying upright and I too went down countless times. Once in the spiral of death and my chain dropped. Trying to get that muddy, sandy, gritty mess back on took forever. I stopped having fun on the fourth lap.

    Great write-ups. Maybe I'll see you at Fair Hill?

  2. Awesome. Nothing wrong with loving the mud, even if it doesn't love you back much.