Friday, February 24, 2017

Race Report: Monster Cross

Oy. Where to begin?

First off, this race report isn't getting out until Thursday (4 days) because I've had trouble concentrating. I fell and hit my head pretty hard . . . and I didn't think I got a concussion, because it didn't feel like the concussions I've had before . . . But who knows. Maybe I had a mild concussion, or maybe I just feel loopy because the weather's been nice and my allergies are starting for the spring.

So. Monster Cross.

It sucked.

I should have gotten an indication of how things would go down at registration, where they ran out of T-shirts. So in spite of registering well ahead of time, I didn't get a T-shirt. Not that I care that much about another T-shirt, but the entry fee was $70 and included a shirt. Why couldn't you have enough shirts for pre-registered riders who paid for a shirt?

The start was a total shit-show, if you'll pardon my language. There was no direction given on staging. I heard a rumor that the 25-mile people were supposed to start after the 50-mile people, but I doubt many people got that note (and I don't even know if it was true). There were about 500 people at the start, and about half of them were assholes on mountain bikes who were really convinced that they needed to get around me and in front of me as quickly as possible. The first 5 miles were full of stupidity and unnecessary risks. Fortunately, I managed to find a pair of wheels from Rogue Velo that were riding at a consistent pace and taking good lines, so I tagged onto the back of them and followed for the first 5-10 miles (even though they were going slower than I knew I could ride).

After things thinned out a little, I passed the pair from Rogue Velo and told them they won my prize for steadiest wheels and thanked them for that. There was still a lot of traffic, though. I though Carl Dolan was stressful last year. It was nothing compared to a double-paceline on double-track with a bunch of dumb mountain bikers who apparently don't know how to ride next to other people and guys on cross bikes who seem like they've never ridden within 10 feet of another person.

There was one guy in particular (on a mountain bike, of course) who made at least 3 really dumb passes that I saw. He blew past me way too close (without calling anything out to me, of course), then I saw him on two other occasions pass someone with barely inches to spare (almost hitting the other rider) when there was plenty of room on the other side to pass! Stupid, discourteous, asshole behavior, all around.

Can you tell that this whole thing was making me grumpy?

I ended up passing and dropping the stupid mountain biker on the uphills, anyway.

I had about 5 miles of good riding before taking a creek crossing too fast (even though I was warned a few weeks ago about this particular creek crossing) and with a bad line. I tore a hole right through my front tire, tubeless system be damned. I ended up at the top of the next hill with half a dozen other riders in the same boat. My wheel was spewing Stan's NoTubes all over, but it was holding enough air that I felt like I could ride it for at least a mile or so before pumping it up again. Another woman was in the same predicament, and she told me she was pretty sure that we had been 2nd and 3rd until that point. But I didn't really care; I'd decided I didn't want to be anywhere close to the front with the self-important jerks and their dickish behavior.

The nice thing about flatting was that I was pretty close to the back of the field, so I had the trails to myself at last! The bad thing was that my tire was losing air, and I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it through a second lap. As I pulled over to the side of the trail to add some more air to my flat (again) tire, I resigned myself to pulling out at mile 25.

Miraculously, my tire had sealed and was holding air! It maintained the same air pressure for the last 4 miles of the lap, and I decided to risk a second lap on it. Right at the end of that lap, though, I passed a really, really, really bad crash. Some of my racing friends had pulled over to the side of the trail, and they all looked stunned. I tried not to look, and kept going on the lap. The woman who'd crashed ended up being taken out in a helicopter, and just regained consciousness the other day. Hope she pulls through.

I stopped by my car (which I'd conveniently and unwittingly parked right next to the start of the second lap) to check the air pressure on my tires with my track pump and let some air out of my tires, because I had way too much for confident handling on the first lap. I also grabbed a fresh bottle of water. And then I started my second lap.

The ride was going great, and I was reeling some of the women who'd passed me back in! Then there was a little mix-up with the course. A section of the course had two-way traffic, but the two-way section wasn't labeled in any way. So we were heading out on our second lap, and the front of the field was heading back on their second lap, and they were yelling at us that we were going the wrong way. Me and another guy on a cross bike rode back to the last corner to see if we'd missed a turn, but it didn't look like we had. So we started out the same way again, and met another group who assured us that we were going the wrong way. So we turned around and went back again, picking up a few more people each time. Finally, there were about a dozen of us stopped at the corner, so we all decided to go back down the two-way section and if we were wrong at least we'd all be wrong together. Turned out to be the right decision. But it's another example of really poor race management. First of all, that section was dangerous. There was only one good line to pass, and if two people were trying to pass at the same time from opposite directions, it would have been a mess. Plus, how hard would it have been to make a sign that said, "Warning! Two-way traffic! Keep right" huh? All it would have taken is a piece of poster board and a sharpie. Poor management.

By that point, I'd added 2 miles to my race and all the women I'd passed had passed me back. One of my friends was so frustrated that she just turned around and went back. I think she'd had enough. But I persisted and finished out the second lap mostly uneventfully. Mostly.

I'd had a terrible day, in spite of beautiful weather and surroundings, and I was having a difficult time keeping my spirits up. I was grumpy. So I did the one thing that could make my day complete: I slid out on a gravelly corner coming down a hill into a sharp right turn. There wasn't much blood, and I didn't damage my kit or my bike, but I hit my head pretty hard. No flash of light or anything, but I figured my helmet was a lost cause at that point. I dedicated myself to riding cleanly for the rest of the race, because I really couldn't risk a second knock to the head.

I rode extra carefully on the creek crossing and made it through without ruining any more tires, and extra carefully around the corner where the really bad crash had been on the previous lap. Made it to the final climb within site of a BikenetiCX rider. Spectators were egging us on to sprint to the finish, so we tried our best. I grabbed the guy's wheel, but just as I was getting ready to pull around him, some dumbass on a mountain bike rode right out in front of us. Without looking! On the finishing straight! I hit my brakes so I wouldn't hit him, and that was my race. A fitting end to that day, all around.

I would tell you how I placed, but the race director hasn't gotten them up yet. He sent an e-mail yesterday that basically said, "Shame on all of you for wanting your race results when one of your fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life! You should all be thinking of her and praying for her instead of wanting your race results." Which didn't sit well with me. I agree that her health and recovery is waaaaay more important than knowing whether or not I finished DFL in this event, but what does that have to do with him? Is he at the hospital every day? Is he spending all his free time praying? How does her recovery affect his ability to get the results done? And it would have been so easy to handle this in a way that kept people happy instead of putting their backs up. He could have said, "Hey guys, sorry the results are taking so long. You probably know by now that we had a really bad crash, and one of our fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life. I'm doing my best to get results out, but they're kind of messed up since we had to stop the race for 20 minutes for the helicopter evacuation. I promise I'll keep working and get the results up as soon as I can. In the meantime, please keep our fellow athlete in your thoughts and prayers." See? I would have so much more patience if he'd said that instead of "Shame on you."

Bah. This was a terrible race. I did not have fun, and I don't think I'm the only one. I won't be doing Monster Cross again.

<--End of rant-->