It was a muddy event in Parma this weekend, and the mud was just what the doctor ordered. After a disappointing race last weekend, I felt a little refreshed and ready to race in the mud.
Two major changes in tactics helped. The first was to stay on the bike, and the second was to not concede to racers who were trying to pass (especially if getting lapped).
The race started with a long, wet and muddy sprint that led into the woods. I tried to continue to move up in the pack instead of my usual settling in. It is amazing how this effort made a difference later on. It appears that many racers settle in and never gain ground after the start. Why it took me ten career starts to figure this out is beyond me, but it seems to be true. I was mid pack by the woods, and I stayed there more or less all race.
The course was fast and had several off camber sections that were made tougher due to the slick peanut buttery nature of the mud. I found myself dabbing on these, but maintaining speed pretty well. Five logs overs, stairs, and run-ups helped me to distance myself from several racers who were closing in throughout the race. I stayed on the bike, and my better than average running kept me in a good spot.
The woods were extremely muddy, but ironically I found the mud to be a godsend. It slowed the field and made the course seem like a lot more fun. Having fun changes one's perspective. For whatever stupid reason, I am fearless in the mud. Like Cross in the Park last year, the mud was just awesome for my confidence and fun factor.
Out of the woods, the race had lots of circles, endless circles. I think my trainer rides this week helped me to maintain pace, as I crossed the finish line and sprinted again into the woods. I held pace really well, with every lap being within seconds of each other. Looking at the race results, I could see several riders fade as the running and grassy sections took a lot out of them.
On the final lap, I had two racers pretty close behind, and the leaders in the field from the Cat 4 and single speed race were about to lap us. I maintained my race, and did not concede or stop to allow anyone to pass. Slowly the racers who were in pursuit of me faded, and I finished 12 out of 21. My best finish in 'cross and a really great sign that I am learning out there.
Hockey in Pittsburgh got cancelled, so it looks like SBP is on the docket for Sunday. I can't wait. I hope it's muddy.