Sunday, September 18, 2011

Only in Chicago, or Endor

Today marked my return to consistent racing for the 2011 season. My road season was pretty much a wash with poor training, undisciplined nutrition, and lackluster sleep. Meh, there's always next year!.. but for THIS year, there's still plenty of cyclocross left.

Such naive optimism.
And so it was, at the 2011 Chicago Cyclocross Cup opener at Jackson Park (if you're familiar with the city, it's sort of on the South Side off Lake Shore Drive near the big golden lady statue adjacent to the Museum of Science & Industry).

After the usual ritual of picking up my racing number from the registration tent, I slathered on a little "embrocation" (goop that makes the skin feel warm and warmed up and probably not even FDA-approved!) and finished putting on the rest of my team kit.

This was my first race in an honest-to-goodness "Masters 40+" field, but don't let the "mature" sound of that age category hint even for a moment that these guys aren't anything but super fast and strong. Many of these forever-young types merely use the 40+ event as a warm-up before their more elite Category 1/2/3 races.

I managed to secure a decent starting spot by warming up (loitering?) just off the entry-point to the course's final straightaway near the start/finish line. After a bit of a bumpy start, I was able to pretty much hold my position throughout the first lap, and settle into somewhat of a nice rhythm. By about the 3rd lap, me and some guy named Jim had just made the cutoff before they started pulling people behind us. So, in the interest of having a spirited finish, it basically comes down to a race between my new friend Jim and me. We're pedaling along, suffering, trading off the lead, but staying close.

And there he goes, eager to secure the hole shot!

At one point, I was so spent and in need of oxygen to the brain, that if I had seen a ewok zip me on an Imperial Speeder Bike, I would have just assumed it was one of the shorter racers in a fun costume and kept right on pedaling. Jackson Park is lovely, with plenty of mature foliage, so it did feel in a couple of sections as though I was trying to evade Imperial Scout Troopers, as well as avoid getting lapped!

Bruni post-race. Isn't she lovely?
I did manage to pass my friendly rival in the final corner and beat him at the line for a double-digit placing after which, I came off the course and did the whole dramatic dry-heave thing (note to self: race-day breakfast of peanut butter and jelly on toast stays down pretty well, must do again).

P.S. Special shout-out to Jeff Provisor and Peter Shapero at Main Street Bicycles in Carpentersville, IL for helping me with my recent pre-CX-season overhaul. Thanks for the wise counsel and genius wrenching, guys!

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