Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Races

Due to my inability to post last week about the Northampton cross race, I'll compare notes between two races that were very different in every way. Northampton is a "classic" comptemporary cross course, with lots of grass, a sand pit, a couple of run-ups, and brief pavement (and one set of barriers). Brockton is flat with no run-ups, some semi-technical single track, dirt paths, and one barrier. From what the Race Official told us at the start, this is what cross used to be like. The word of the day was "old school".


Adding to the discrepancy was the weather. Northampton started out pretty chilly. As I made the 1 1/2 hour
trek westward, the thermometer on the car hardly budged. Once I got there and was able to hit the course, we were warming up on frost-covered grass. Although, the sun was showing and things were get a little warmer. At Brockton, we were treated to a monsoon. Rain was supposed to hold off until later in the day, but it only managed to hold off until the start of our race. It poured the first two laps, trailed off to just rain the next couple of laps, and then by the time we finished it was just a "misting", which was interrupted by the monsoon. But, at least it was a warm rain.

Both races went fairly well. At Northampton, I was able to get a decent start, despite getting hit in the face by a pine tree branch in the first turn. Beyond that, it was just a matter of sitting in and suffering like crazy. There was no room for rest as you were always trying to gain a position or
defend a position. This was also a stacked C field, with about 85 other people racing. It was a smooth course with good terrain variation, which only added to the physical distress. Being only a 40 minute race, the suffering was short-lived, but intense. I ended up only doing 35 minutes with the way the lap count worked out, which was a little disappointing. That is the odd thing about cross: during the race you want it to end, but after the race you think you could have gone another lap. Although, as I stood at my car with my legs shaking from the effort, I was happy it was over.

At Brockton, the field was much smaller, perhaps 40 people. With the rain and long sections of pavement, people were going to be cautious. The single track actually ended up helping because it provided some recovery as you couldn't pass or be passed. But once out of the single track, it was back to full-speed ahead. There were a few tight turns on the course, but mostly full throttle. People were dropping out constantly either due to mechanicals or crashes. One guy ended up in the pond during a downpour section. The crowd was very supportive, yelling at him to get out of the pond and start racing again. It was an absolute mudfest, with pe0ple caked with mud after the race. It took one pre-soak cycle, one wash cycle, and one rinse cycle to get things clean. A good metric for a cross race.

In both races, I raced with teammates. The first was Steve Wright and myself going through the course
together. At Brockton, it was Tom Ball and myself. In both races I ended up finishing pretty well. Top twenty in Northampton, 11th in Brockton. Onto Lowell next weekend.

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