Sunday, September 8, 2013

Oh MFG! Cross!

After a week of monsoon rains and heavy thunderstorms, the weather gods finally smiled at us on Saturday. As is usually the case, the woods east of Seattle were soaked with moisture and low clouds hang over the Issaquah Alps in the morning. This weather makes the trails slick for biking and the air saturated with humidity makes me drip sweat like a leaky faucet.
I went for a trail run on the Tiger Mountain Trail, first climbing 2000 feet over 3 miles, then some ups and downs for another three miles or so and then steep downhill. When I came upon intersection of trails on my final leg where I could have chosen either 1.1 miles or 2.6 miles to where I parked, I chose the longer route. My "bad" knee did not thank me for this choice on the last few hundreds of meters of the Pipeline trail.
During this run, I got three phone calls: the first one from my wife whose car broke down in California; the second one from an Oregon area code, was from a Czech family who have just arrived in Seattle with three boys and a dog. They went hiking around the lake and tried to get in touch. I happened to just finished my run in the same area, so after weeks of emails, we met for the first time face to face.

Slideshow using bad phone pictures of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on is here.

The third call came when I drove home. My boss and a friend invited me to a season MFG cyclocross opening race on Sunday. How do you refuse that? I got up early and rode at easy pace about 18 miles to the venue. I expected a low key, grass roots event, but the park was packed with people in colorful kits (they looked suspiciously like roadies to me) and hundreds of high end cross bikes were all over.

I wanted to register for a Cat 4 Masters race, but that race was just starting, so I signed up for beginners. I really did not feel like trying Cat 3. I felt somewhat bad about it since in XC mountain biking, you do a beginners race just once if you never raced before. At the start line, I was surrounded by fit looking people on world championship worthy carbon machines (Ridley, Redline...). The first lap speed was insane. My 29-er with 2.25 Specialized Captain tires did awesome well on off camber grassy switchbacks, where I could take tight inside lines and actually passed a few people that way. On paved straightaways, everybody accelerated and just zoomed past me. Until the next technical section. There was also a mud pit, I guess as mandatory as barriers, where I had no problem ploughing through the deep mud, but my wheels wrapped in what felt like 15 pounds of thick mud made the next section especially grueling.

Forty minutes of intense workout, I gave it all I had but most of the other "beginners" pulled ahead of me. I was not redlined for 40 minutes, heck, I can go full out for about 3-4 minutes max. The key was to maintain the highest effort I could for the whole race. My legs felt definitely mushy after the trail run a day before, but I was able to scramble some mental energy for the last lap sprint to the finish.

By the time my friends finished their crowded Cat 3 race, it was sunny and hot. Iced Americano and a Yeah! cookie (both delicious) helped me to get ready for those slooooow 18 miles back home. GPS track here. The actual cyclocross laps are the head on the long snake of the ride track.

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