This race titled the Rapha-Focus Grand Prix to reflect the sponsors, since each MFG event runs with different folks getting the title spot. Location was Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. For all you non Pacific Northwestern types, we're talking Washington. Ian and I have raced on this course in the past. It's dead flat with lots of grass, a little pavement, and a long section of sand for your running pleasure. Oh yeah, and one set of barriers added to the mix.
Even though I officially suck, I've decided to race every MFG event in the series, or at least that's the plan. Racer Boy Ian is there flying his team colors, so Bike Geek Dad might as well go for it. I felt like crap signing up that morning with a bit of a headache and upset stomach. I said screw it - I'm here - let's do it.
After riding around to warm up, I felt a lot better. Fun course, minus the sand section, runner I am not. There's actually two sand sections, broken up with a short section of pavement. First section I could ride through, though not really going any faster then people running. I'd still rather ride then run. Second section, no way, off the bike and slog through the deep sand.
I line up with the Cat 4 Master Men 45+ dudes, mixed in with other classes: Cat 4 Master Men 35+, 55+ and Women. It's a big group and off we go. I barely qualify as a racer to begin with, plus feel crappy on top of it. I'm quickly dropped and hanging off the back. Yes, let the fun begin.
Soon, the faster 55+ dudes are passing. They may be old, but are plenty quick. At one point, Scott, one of the Old Guy Ride regulars, passes me. He yells to latch on as he goes by. I wish. Then the even faster Cat 4 Women are buzzing past. Girl racers rock. Really, they do, and don't get enough credit.
I settle into a rhythm and do what I can. Thoughts float between wanting to quit (no way) and thinking I'm feeling okay. Except for one lap, I do ride the first sand section each go around. BFD, but still satisfying none the less. The second sand section finds me barely jogging though at a snail's pace, every lap. Joy.
I catch up to a few of the slower 45+ guys and eventually pass one, so I'm no longer in last place. I vow to not come in last, even if it kills me. I crank it up a bit and notice I'm pulling away. Yabba Dabba Do.
Cool thing about racing is that it's all relative, whether you're battling for first or last place. You're still pushing yourself and experiencing the speed and drama, just at a slower pace. Some may think why bother dueling for last place? The only answer for that lives in your own head. And if you've never raced yourself, I invite you to sign on the dotted line and give it a go.
Maintaining my esteemed next to last position, I cross the finish line with some confusion - as the race leaders cross at the same time - since I've been lapped. Am I done, or I'm supposed do another lap? I ask another racer while slowing down, he says do one more. I take off for another lap and cross the finish line once again, though not needed. A bonus lap for no reason, better safe then scoring a DNF. So chalk up a 46th place finish out of 47 racers in my class. Pretty shabby, but I'll take it.
I also recently learned the race leader is defined as the fastest racer for that race, not the individual class. So the faster 35+ men tend to kick everyone's ass. Now I feel slightly less lame about being lapped. For my crappy racing ability, my goal is to finish mid pack of my 45+ class and not be lapped by the race leaders. If I ever pull that off, I'd be happy as a pig in poo poo.
Ian raced later in the day and put in a solid ride, placing 8th out of 12 kids in the Junior Boys 13 - 14 class. He fell twice heading into the barrier section, SPD pedals jammed up with wet sand and couldn't unclip in time. Ouch.
He did look pro out there in his full team kit. The boys in this age class are pretty fast, including his fellow JL Velo teammates who scored 1st - 3rd place. A great showing. Seeing all these kids, and the numbers continue to increase, race - is fantastic.
As mentioned earlier - late blog posts - can be traced to goofing around shooting pictures with the new digital SLR. In the past, I'd grab a few pics with the old Point 'N' Shoot camera, then use the least crappiest shots for the blog. With the new camera, I'm shooting a few hundred to a few thousand shots per race. I shot 3000+ pictures at this event. That'll happen when using burst mode and blowing off a few frames per second. Crazy town and quite a bit of time going through 'em all later. It's a blast though and I'm digging it, plus learning a lot.
In no particular order, a few examples...
With some big name racers hanging around from the previous day StarCrossed event, this race featured an Elite class race late in the day. Here Bart Wellens, Belgian 'cross pro takes the win.
Mountain bike and 'cross hero, Todd Wells, wheelie drops into the sand section. Watching this level of racers ride is like visiting a different universe. The speed through the barriers is insane.
Belgium pro Rob Peeters puts down the power. Ever see a 'cross bike throw a roost? These guys have some serious horsepower.
On the shores of Lake Sammamish. I played around with blurring things a bit. Or maybe it's just the speed...
Todd Wells at the start line. Cool thing about bike races is the accessibility of it all, you're just inches from the action.
Elite Women cranking it out. Very fast girls. Katerina Nash took the win for the day.
Houston, we have lift off. This wooden fly over was only used for the Elite level races. This pic also looked cooler converted to black and white - now sitting on another computer, along with a nice shot of Katerina Nash crossing the line. Too much to do, too little time...
Ian plays JL Velo model, without even knowing it.
Another JL Velo junior going fast and looking good.
More JL Velo junior action.
My Ibis Hakkalugi at rest.
Scott, who scored a 10th place in the Cat 4 Master Mens 55+ class, gives Ian some pre-race advice. Cyclocross rocks for young and old alike.
With that, not a bad way to end this post. Until next time...