Monday, November 27, 2017

Seatac Slog

The best cyclocross branding ever!

North Seatac Park lies right under the path of southbound jets landing on runway 16C34C at Seatac International airport. Every two minutes the jingle of cow bells was drowned out by a four engined monster descending directly over the venue. While the jet setters carried on overhead this year's participants jockeyed hard for the Cross Revolution series season podium positions in what I called the 'Seatac Slog'.

The Cross Revolution season champions are based on a racer's best five out of six finishes. Going in my best mathematical outcome was third if I had my best day and almost every other competitor did not.

The course at North Seatac park consists primarily of trails. Some are probably narrow enough to be called mountain bike trails. There is a variety of soils and most of them create slippery or slimy mud with adequate moisture and mixing. The previous days of rain and previous races provided the necessary ingredients and the course was categorized as hard and tough and tricky and challenging by racers who had seen the mud first hand.

Every flavor of mud including 'soup'.
I was only able to get two course preview laps. There were different types of mud in different sections of the course. There was an unfamiliar trail with some roots. There were three run ups with the longest being the traditional North Seatac staircase. There were also a number of places where the course went up then down. I've learned these are sections where I can give some extra effort on the up knowing I'll get a short rest on the down.

Start of cyclocross race
This isn't Dwaine's start. Even if it were Dwaine's
start he would be invisible behind the front row
of riders.
My first lap was uneventful but only due to luck. On the uphill paved start I was boxed in and entered the first corner in heavy traffic. The third corner of the course was a slick off camber 180 degree lefty and I was lucky to get through cleanly. I finished the first lap without incident and by the beginning of the second lap I was following the well respected Craig Undem and content to hold his wheel.

Cyclocross racing on an off camber corner
This is the third corner. First lap mayhem often ensued right here.
By the end of the fourth lap I had learned a bit about my situation. Craig was leading so I concluded I was second. We each excelled in different sections of the course and he repeatedly opened small gaps on me. People cheered for Craig constantly so I always knew where he was. I was able to close any gap before the finish line on every lap.

Muddy rutted cyclocross course
Here's a slippery corner leading to a rutted mud section. Racers just needed to go fast, not fall, and
then repeat and repeat and repeat.
A few times I felt like Craig slowed a bit to see if I might come around. I did not. Craig has a lot of racing experience and I was content to let him choose our pace. Just to keep us on our toes the announcer asked, over the PA system, if a sprint finish might be in the making.

The course designers used a hillside to good effect in their course layout. The mud was slick and maintaining forward momentum was a challenge. Craig got crossed up in a rut and was forced to dismount. I rode the section and when I doubled back at the next 180 degree corner I could see a small gap in my favor. We were about to enter the rooted trail section where I felt strong and I stretched my legs out a bit.

Staircase at North Seatac Park
My camera can only show the scale of this staircase. The suffer is invisible.
I expected to be caught between the second and third run up but was not. For the remainder of the lap I gave extra effort at every little 'up' knowing I could get a little rest on the 'down'.

As I started the last lap my gap was over ten seconds. I rode strong and smart. At half a lap to go I was well clear and uncorked any and all energy reserves. I was not challenged from behind and took my first Cat 1/2 win.

Cyclocross fan presents cheese puffs to racers
The CX pranksters were at work again. This time it was stale cheese ball offerings for hungry racers.
My win surprised some of my fellow racers and it also surprised me. The North Seatac course was about as near perfect for me as it could have been. I probably started the race at my best fitness level of the year.

My win did not have much affect on my season points position. Other riders who have been strong all year continued to be strong on Sunday. I'll be in the top ten but not on the podium. But it still felt good to know that I did my part, brought my 'A' game, and had my best day of racing this year.
Two muddy cyclocross bikes
Dirty, dirty bike love.

Mud covered cyclocross racer and bicycle
Dwaine had a good day.

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