What: Long Beach Cross (SoCal Prestige Series #6) Men's 4s
Where: El Dorado Regional Park
When: Sunday, October 18
Who: Me, Paul, Aaron (Liza did the Women's 3-4) and 50 of our closest friends
How: 24th for Aaron, 39th for me, DNF for Paulie (boo!)
It's not the gravel, it's not the sand, it's not the one-eighty switchbacks and run-ups through fire hoops that hurt. It's the gopher-hole-infested, melon-ball-from-hell divotted, semi-cared-for-by-LA-Parks-And-Rec grass that kills. Thirty minutes of getting every shock and kick roll up from your tires through your frame and into your bones are enough to wipe you out and make you pray for something smooth, like the tiny stretches along the sidewalk that Dot Wong puts in just to give you a break. And then, just when you feel like you've got some strength back in your arms, it's back on the humpy bumpy.
Dot added onto last year's course with more switchbacks, a staircase run-up and more sections with softpack and gravel. The log barricade was gone, replaced by a double set right in the middle of spectator country. The sand pit was still there, and my goal for this race was not to let it slow me down. (My other goal? Eat as much as possible from the taco truck that set up shop at the end of the parking lot.)
After a quick start on the asphalt (which was also a juddering mess, thanks to the pine roots that cracked the pavement), it was into the trees, around the bends, and over the first set of barricades. I didn't have time to warm up, and the course already seemed different enough from last year to make me wary, so I settled in for the first lap and tried to make sure I wouldn't get lapped by the single-speeders. I lost sight of Paul and Aaron, locked onto someone to be my rabbit, and did my best to hang on.
All of the Tuesday morning practice paid off, because I made some time on the barricades and the run-up. Even the dreaded sand pit went smoothly; I hopped off early, slung my bike on my shoulder and charged through. I made a pass each lap, then swung past a third guy on one of the switchbacks. He hung a few seconds back for the rest of the race, which just got my legs pumping more. Every time I took a switchback, I could see him working like hell to keep up. Every time I popped onto the pavement, I pushed harder to widen that gap. Even on the final stretch to the finish line, I poured out everything to make sure I wouldn't get nabbed at the last second.
Umber cracked the top 25, and Paul pulled out after crashing and scraping the bejeezus out of his hand (he came back in the 35+ 3/4, which was a big ol' bucket of pain that's not worth writing about, except that Anne had tacos waiting for me when I wheezed across the finish line). Another good day on Dot's Hurt Farm.