finishing my warm up when SoCal fastman Brent Prenzlow
said "you better get up there" since they were in the
middle of calling up the Masters 30-34 group to the line.
As is usual for me this season, I ended up in the back
row; at least I found myself at the back
before the race
started and not after the first lap. It was pretty chilly
by SoCal standards so Richard [Murphy] cloaked me in a
warm coat while they did call ups and I felt like a pro. I
wasn't too nervous and considering the conditions, I was
planning to just put in a good effort and finish.
blew and somewhere in the range of 60 to 100 racers took
off towards a racecourse of slick-ass, sloppy, deep,
cloggy, nasty mud. Some ill-placed course cones caused
enough chaos that I was able to move up a dozen-and-a-half
places before we encountered the first "grass" section.
Having elected not to ride the course that day before the
race to spare my bike, the ice-like sensation and lateral
movement of the bike was bit unnerving. In any case, it
was time to get serious. Typically, I'm competing in some
race where I'm in way over my ability, or I'm simply
outclassed, so I tend to be a bit passive or relenting-and
after a severe scolding from Treebeard at a NorCal UCI,
you'd be too. But I figured what-the-hell, I'm not
tripping-up some big-money pros this time; I'm going to
stake my position. I would hear guys coming up on my
inside at a turn; I'd just hold my ground, race my race,
and never hear from them again-hey, this is fun.
So as I
mentioned before, it was a bit muddy. Dips, hills,
corners, off-camber sections, flat straight sections. . .
well, pretty much 65% of the non-paved part of the course
was semi-rideable at best. To me, driving the bike in all
this mud was like driving it in very deep sand, in which
I'm not so great a bike driver. I would try to point the
bike in the direction I wanted it go, relax my upper body,
and, more or less, go in that direction-more like
direction I was riding.
before the start from Jeff Herring and Brent was "when in
doubt, run it." I was in doubt a lot and thus, running a
lot; but, being in doubt seemed to get me around the
course a little faster than a lot of guys trying to
churn-away on their pedals. Okay, okay . . . Faster? . .
. I shuffled through the mud a little less slowly than a
lot of the other racers-it was more like a shuffling race
at nursing home.
The race wore
on and I could hear someone screaming that I had moved up
to twentieth. I thought to myself, "who is screeching at
me with that high-pitched, female-adolescent squeal?"
There wasn't time to look, besides my eyes and specs were
full of mud. Nonetheless, I was really motivated as this
was much better than I thought I could do. I really
started to push it hard. I was passing guys on the
pavement, and was passing guys on my feet; at one point, I
heard someone yell "C'mon John, you're a runner!"
Unfortunately my feet, legs, lungs, heart, and body don't
agree, but I was giving it everything. In fact, with about
a quarter of a lap to go, I was going so hard I didn't
think I could finish the race. Again, I hear this woman
squeal "SoCal 'em!" I then realized it was not a woman,
but it was SoCal-based,
cyclocross toughman Brent Prenzlow, who apparently gets
quite flustered when he gets excited. When referring to "SoCal-ing"
someone, we're usually talking about the
extraordinarily-rude and aggressive driving manners of
Southern Californians. Anyway, I SoCal'd a guy at the turn
onto the pavement to finish seventeenth, making it,
arguably, my best race of the year.