Second, I reached my goal for 'cross season this year: a top 10 finish!
Let me rewind: the 4th race in the MFG series was back on October 10th, down at the venerable 'cross venue known as Fort Steilacoom Park. It was designed to be part 1 of a 2 part battle between Washington and Oregon (read: Seattle and Portland) for the "Grail de la Grunge". A noble battle indeed, and one that needed to be fought.
The grail itself is a motley collection of handlebars, a beer keg, some miscellaneous cogs, and most notably, a Space Needle looking thing on top: http://twitpic.com/moo5h
The course was quite a bit different than it was when I was down in September for the Rad Racing GP. In particular, the course bypassed the massive "Knapp-Time" run-up in favor of some longer, slow climbs up the hill. I wanted to make sure I got a feel for the course, so when the Cat 4 Masters race was over, I headed out for a quick practice lap. I got back into the wooded section of the course, and decided that I should check out the climbs, and see just what I was in for during the race. After coming back down off the hill, and rounding the last corner before the big asphalt straightaway to the start/finish line, I noticed a bunch of racers, all lined up at what looked to be the.......starting line....what the??........OH MY GOD THE RACE IS ABOUT TO START!!!!!!!
I flew into the back of the staging group, screeching to a halt with no more than 10 seconds to the start of the race. Terry, the race director, looked back and said "So, you're all warmed up right?" Jesus, I felt like an idiot. I had completely lost track of time.
Without a moment to catch my breath, the race was underway. I tried to make my way up to a better spot in the pack right away, but in the first big corner, I got pushed waaaay to the outside, as everyone crammed in. I realized that I had actually been pushed into the entrance to the pits, and somehow, without hesitation, pulled the tape up and over my head and ducked back onto the course, all without slowing down. Someone yelled "NIIIICE", as I congratulated myself mentally for getting out of that situation. So far, I'd almost missed the start, and almost gone the wrong way. All in the first minute of the race.
The rest of the race actually ended up going really well, and I felt strong on the bike. I made some good, clean passes, and managed to stay ahead of a few guys who were nipping at my heels for most fo the 40 minutes. I did manage to play the pass-get-passed game several times with one racer however, a la MTB Mike. He had a long ponytail, so he kind of "stuck out" amongst all the Lycra-clad dudeness that was the rest of the field. He ended up getting the better of me on the last lap, and I was powerless to catch him.
I was pleasantly shocked to hear the announcers call my name as I came across the line, along with the phrase "rounding out the top 10". I had placed in the top 10 (a small goal that I had set for myself at the beginning of the season)
I chatted with Mr. Ponytail for a while after the race, (He actually has a name, and it's Michael Dishman). Dude camped out in the park the night before the race behind some trees, as he was in the middle of a tour through the PNW.....on his 'cross bike. If that wasn't enough, he said he'd ridden around the Olympics (the mountain range, not the international sports competition) since the previous weekend's race! Fucking metal, I tell you. That also explains the long hair. MFG wrote a little blurb about him on their site to a similar effect. Wherever you are now Mr. Dishman, remember that the bearded guy you passed on the barriers thinks you're incredibly awesome.
I didn't have my camera with me, but lots of other people took photos (including some of the group of guys/ladies that dressed up as all the Wizard of Oz characters, including the flying monkey!!)
photo courtesy of Dave Roth
photo courtesy of Dave Roth
Steven Bisig's photos
Me looking weird
Me getting passed by the aforementioned metal dude
My buddy Chris, bringing back the "princess pillow" from Kick-Off Cross
and finally, this guy, who proved to be one of the best, loudest 'cross spectators I've seen:
MFG did a great job putting on the race, and I had both a great time, and my best finish to date. Not bad for a day on the bike.