Just Keep Smiling

Jackson Park Cyclocross
September 21, 2008 – Chicago, IL
Masters 30+ – 13th

is theoretically supposed to be raced in cold, damp, muddy, and treacherous conditions. Yeah, if you’re in Belgium in March, but Chicago in September is a little different. The first 2008 Chicago Cyclocross Cup race was contested at Jackson Park on September 21. The course was very similar to last year with lots of tight turns, a few off camber sections, and just enough straightaways to recuperate. While the course was great, the air was something different. I chose the Masters 30+ race, which was the first one of the day. Temperatures were hovering around 70 degrees F, but the humidity was thick enough for a machete. Yeah, this was going to be fun.

About 50-60 Masters racers toed the line and found out we would be going at once instead of waves based on age group. I let other guys to the front, because I had decided to use this race as practice and focus more on Lapham Peak which was a few weeks away. I would use the first half of the race to primarily focus on cornering and my barrier technique. The race started fairly fast, but not too insane. The wet grass from the dew proved to very slick in some areas and a few racers went down. With this race surface, I was happy to have dropped my Grifos down to about 34 PSI for the race. A few guys in front of me went down.

The first lap was very easy and it was good just to get a feel for the barriers and course.  Even if you do a preride, it’s just not the same as tackling the course in a race. The spectators were great and positioned at just the right places around the course to encourage us racers.  Plus, Jackson Park was hosted by XXX Racing/ Athletic, so there were plenty of my teammates cheering me on. I would occasionally ham it up for them, especially if someone was taking photos.  I heard more than a few times, “Hey, Pete…quit smiling and get racing.”  Yeah, I know, but that’s not the game plan.

One thing that got me worried about 10 minutes into the race was my heart rate.  I wasn’t going even close to hard and I was at 190 bpm, which is near my max on the bike.  I would expect it to be a little higher in cyclocross due to the running, but it shouldn’t be so high for the pace I was going.  This was starting to freak me out, but I attributed it to the heat. I wanted to pick the pace up in the second half of the race, but I tried only see my heart rate peg out at around 200 bpm.  I sure wasn’t going to go harder and the heat was beginning to take a toll on me as the race wore on.  I wasn’t smiling much now.

I was thinking of dropping out at 45 minutes, because I had planned it as a workout.  Thankfully, I was passing more and more racers and decided to suffer through a few more laps.  Isn’t that what CX is all about? The last few laps were unnerving from the heat.  My legs felt good and I had plenty of energy, but my I was feeling sloppy. Ironically, my barrier technique kept getting better at the end of the race, even though I was more tired. I got a few more riders and ended up fighting with a few for position since we knew the race was just about over. I was happy to finish and immediately went to my car to rejoice with some nice warm water (I need to start bringing a cooler).

After my race, I was scheduled to volunteer at registration.  I remember how stressful it was last year, but the experience helped prepare me for this year. I was manning the table with Luke and Peggy.  Amazingly, we got through the crush of Cat 4s.  We ended up with over 120 racers in the 4As and 4Bs…wow!  It’s good to see CX expanding in popularity.

While working registration, I saw them post results for the Masters 30+ race.  I ended up 13th out of about 30 racers.  Not bad considering I was nearly last at the start. Now I just need to actually focus on racing and not worry about my smile.

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