Friday, November 14, 2008

Less Mud, Less Race

My race on the 9th was actually really bad.  I feel like my biggest problem was not being able to get any traction, but it was bad in a lot of ways, which was kind of wierd.  I got a decent start and I felt like I was doing okay for a while, but there was a marshy section of track in the infield that I just bogged down in, and lost a bunch of places.  The course deteriorated from lap to lap, and my next problem was that a turn across a paved section had a thin layer of mud on it that I had a really difficult time doing without falling.  I didn't fall, but I had to slow way down every time.  Another section of track was a slight downhill section on grass with another 180 degree turn.  I had lots of trouble with that every time, frequently skidding my rear wheel.  The turn itself pointed down hill, which made it really difficult.  I had to put my foot down to keep from falling a couple times, and once the guy behind me actually wiped out.  Passing through the marsh section during the last lap, I actually washed out my rear wheel badly enough to wipe out.  Since it was flat, that's pretty embarassing.

The other place that was a problem for me was the trail section.  I'm not always brilliant in those, but I'm usually pretty good - mountain biking means much rougher trails than what these races ever go through.  My cyclocross bike is less capable but I'm usually able to negotiate the trails well and frequently close on the next guy in front of me.  I also usually don't make mistakes that lose me places, while other guys do.  I didn't really have a problem with the trail sections during this race, but they didn't help me either, and I lost some places misreading the tape lines twice, which is really dumb.

I feel like what gave me the most trouble on this race were the muddy sections that forced me to slow down more than they slowed the other guys racing, although I did have to stop and fix a dropped chain at one point, which is really irritating.  I did a "no excuses" tune-up on my bike afterwards - I've been using an all-conditions tire with a moderate knob, and I stuck a more aggressive tire on the rear wheel, which should help some with all the skidding, I had a chain watcher installed to help prevent my chain from dropping, and I tipped up my handlebars some to offer me a wider variety of hand positions.  I hope that the bar position will make it easier for me to adjust my weight over the bicycle, which should help with both the handling and traction problems I was having.

I think that I didn't have these problems in earlier races because the ones before Donida Farms were all pretty dry and fast courses, and Donida's mud was mainly on a trail and wet enough to flow well.  I'm realizing that when the mud is working its way up from under grass, it functions like a lubricant between my tire and the grass, which is already slick, so traction is even worse than when what I'm finding under the mud is dirt.  Donida also tended to have steeper slopes when we were riding on grassy sections, so they drained better and there weren't any mud-over-grass bogs like what I had so much trouble getting through last Sunday.

There's no race this weekend, so I can't go back and try again yet.  I had my rest day today and I'm going to try to do some off-roading tomorrow and on Sunday, with a couple intervals mixed in on Sunday either on the mountain bike or later in the day on my road bike, and then I'll ride but take it easy all of next week.  I don't think that my poor performance last Sunday was due to taking it easy the week before - I feel like I actually had more race in my legs, but was too bogged down by my problems with the course to do well.  Anyway, it'll be nice to have my "no more excuses" bike for the last two races at the end of the month, and if I do better I'll do one more in December before putting some road slicks and fenders on the bike and riding it to work.

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