November 15, 2010

Barton, In A Nutshell

Photo: Dave Roth
Barton Park, the last race in the Cross Crusade series, lived up to expectations and was exactly what cyclocross in Oregon is all about.

Barton is a gravel pit. Piles of gravel line the course, steep run-ups and off-camber descents make it technical and challenging and HARD. Barton is just plain hard. There are a couple of pavement sections, a few gravel straighaways and only one set of barriers, but don’t let that fool you. Barton is hard.

There is no place for resting.  Places that might give you some relief on a dry day are now, quite appropriately, mud bogs that take every ounce of remaining strength out of your legs, but lead to a muddy stair step run-up, which requires you to find something more.

You thought you were out of strength, well, suck it up and find some more – you have to get up this hill. And then over the barriers.

When speaking in the language of cyclocross lovers, HARD = FABULOUS.
Barton was agonizing bliss.

Cyclocross, I have intimately learned, is addictive. It is a drug. A drug for which we train and suffer for, a drug which is only readily available for a few precious months each year, a drug that costs us money, weekends, late nights, and any attempt cleanliness or modesty.

The Sunday night ritual includes diving home over the Cascades, unpacking, laundry, a much needed shower, fried egg sandwiches – and sleep. Sleep and dreams of the day’s effort. Agonizing bliss.

Barton started fast and didn’t slow down. I had mud in my eyes from the gate.
Contacts + mud = blurry vision. But glasses wouldn’t have helped.
When I couldn’t see, I just held on tight and pedaled harder.
It seemed to work out.

Through the mud, up the hill, over the barriers, across the dike, down the hill, around the corner, through the parking lot, up the hill, around the s-curves, up the hill, through the trees, up the road. REPEAT.

Photo: Pat Malach
I don’t even know how many laps we rode; and it doesn’t matter. I rode hard and I raced. I held the lead for a while and Wendy went around me, I stuck on her wheel. I held on. SWEET. I am still here. I passed her on the asphalt and led for the next half lap. She took the lead through the mud bog; she is stronger period, but I caught her on the run-up. Together we road down the steep descent; I was still right there.

There was some traffic, Wendy got around, I didn’t. I stood up out of the corner, but the gap was growing and she caught a train of Men on the pavement. I was losing ground. Or was Wendy gaining ground. I learned later it was the latter.

The last lap and a half I rode alone, sights set on closing the gap, but to no avail. I gave it everything I had.

Fitness is one thing, mental toughness is another. I found the mental part on the Barton course. Hopefully I can hold on tight all the way through Nationals.