Ah the Waco race. This year, this race had like 5 different names and I don’t remember any of them.
This race was kinda a toss up for me. It’s a short loop, so us Cat 3 peeps get to feel like we’re “all that” cause we get to do more than one lap. We did three laps of 4 miles each, making this the longest race of the series so far. I mean, there was only one before this and it was 7 miles… The course itself is pretty fun, there’s a couple short steep climbs, a few long drawn out ones, and some good, fast downhill stuff. There wasn’t too much technical, besides some of the climbs were kinda loose. Just a good place to ride your bike.
I ended up taking a half day at work on friday, went home, loaded all my stuff and drove the 4 hours to the park that the race was at. I got out of the car and instantly froze. It was probably 46 degrees or so, and all I had to do my preride in was just shorts and a jersey. I would have totally said “Rule number 9, pansies!” if I wasn’t being such a pansy and whining about it. I finished the preride with about 27 minutes per lap, which wasn’t that bad for not being warmed and just taking it slow. Afterwards, I talked to some of the volunteers about some places on the course that I thought should be changed, and they were understanding and I totally got the course changed! That sentence kinda makes me sound like I complained and stuff, but I just brought up the point that it was a little tricky at one point and it totally kills the speed and made me stop each time, and that the little kids and having heavy traffic doing the same might not be the best.
After pre riding, I sat in my car and booked a hotel room. I was planning on camping, but the volunteers that I talked to mentioned that they really hadn’t reserved camping for Friday night, so there could be the chance that I’d get kicked out. And since it was pretty darn cold, and I was freezing, I just spent the money and got somewhere that had a heater.
Saturday, I woke up and took a shower. I figured since I’m paying all this money, I should at least enjoy the high life. The Waco race is one of the latest Cat 3 starts in our series; the race doesn’t start till 1:30pm. I think the latest other race starts are 11:00am, 11:30 tops. It makes it challenging, cause if you don’t eat before the race, there’s a good chance you’ll be hungry and won’t perform too well, but if you do eat, you’ll have too full of a stomach. So, it means you’re eating your salad at like 11:20, hoping that everything is going to digest well.
I got to the park at like 9am, walked around, hung out, watched the cat 2’s start, waited, talked, watched the cat 1’s start, waited some more. I eventually met up with my friends, got changed and warmed up. I got all ready to for roll call at 1:15pm, but then they announced that the cat 3 start got pushed back to 2:00pm. I’m just glad I didn’t take some caffeine like some of my friends did, they were shaking for a while before we actually got to start. And eventually we did get to start.
The start there was really wide, which then funneled down into this tapped off zig zag that we had to ride through. I was kinda in the middle when we hit the first turn and people just cut me off and were squeezing me out, so I slammed on my brakes, popped off a foot and pivoted right around the first pole. It was pretty cool, but I did lose quite a bit of speed. A couple more turns and we ended up dropping into the single track.
One of the things that defined this race in my mind this year was the fact that I was never alone. Most races, since I’m middle of the pack skill and speed wise, there a point in the middle where I am just riding on the trail with no one before me and no one behind me. That didn’t happen this race. I’m not sure if it was cause there wasn’t many places to pass, I started too far back in the pack, or if there just were a lot of people, but I was almost always coming up behind someone. I’ve never passed so many people before this race. The hardest part of passing someone is that you are only going like 1 mile an hour faster than them, so you don’t really have the strength or speed to pass them on the flats; there just isn’t any places that are wide and long enough. Or what else happened a lot was that I would be the third person in the train, so I had to either pass the person in front of me then the person in front of them, or get the person in front of me to pass the person in front of them, then decide if I could even pass the person who passed the first person.
With being behind so many people, the hill climbs became more challenging. You had to drop down to the granny-est of your gears and spin just to keep from bumping tires with the person in front of you. Cause once you bump tires, you more than likely end up losing all your momentum and have to stop. When you’re stopped, more people pass you. There is this one climb (dubbed in my head as “the loose climb”) that I can ride up, it’s not the most fun climb, but I can do it. I didn’t successfully make it up any of the three times I came across it, mostly because people in front of me messed me up.
As I came to the end of the first lap, I was behind this guy wearing a white shirt with a gray backpack on. As we climbed this massive climb, I was constantly on his rear tire, and as we came around to cross the finish line I was pretty much just following him in recovery mode. As we started the loop, I passed him and started towards the single track. As I go close to where it narrows, he zooms past me and just takes off. I was all “what the heck?”, since he was going so slow before. I decide to chase after him.
Long story short, I don’t see him again until the big climb at the end of the lap. I say something about it and we get to talking. His name is Justin, and knowing his name is going to make mentioning him again much easier. As we both finish out second lap and start our third, I did much better at keeping up with him, he doesn’t lose me till this annoying fire road climb that never seems to end; the climb isn’t particularly hard or steep, it just goes on forever and gets steeper towards then end. I do manage to see him when I start the big climb at the end, about 200 yards and three people in front of me. I manage to gain a little on him on the climb, but then the person in front of me eats it and lies moaning on the trail. I manage to get around him and finally get to the very last section of the race, which is about a half of a mile of grass, asphalt, and grass again. Justin is now only about a hundred yards away and going pretty fast. So I just start hammering away.
As soon as I get to the black top, I pass the guy in front of me, and it’s only me, Justin and about 200 yards to the finish. I pedaled so hard and so fast that after I crossed the line, I couldn’t breathe, talk, stand up, or do anything for a good five minutes. And sadly Justin crossed the line a whole ten feet ahead of me. He didn’t even know I was coming for him.
That said, I’m still pretty impressed at how much I narrowed the gap.
Oh and another thing that happened at this race is that the scoring was all messed up and slow. Slow as in 2 and half hours late in getting our results. I know there must be some difficulty in having a multi lap cat 3 race, but it wasn’t any fun to wait around that long. When they finally posted the times, Justin wasn’t in the right place; they had him as a DNF, not right in front of me. We protested, but I didn’t stick around to see of they fixed it for the final results. They didn’t. I ended up getting 11th place, when I probably really should have had 12th. But what is done is done.
And I then drove home, with a car that started to act up. 3 hours from home. At night. When I was exhausted.
But that is a story for another time, titled “how much my car has been misbehaving”…