Mike and I headed out to NJ on Thursday night to race in the USGP's at Mercer County Park. On Friday night before the number presentation, we stopped at Nino's to grab some food. We had pre-ridden a bit of the course after arriving in NJ around 2 in the afternoon.
These pics won't come close to doing this past weekend's conditions justice...we ran about 800 meters per lap, with lap times in the 15-minute range on Saturday. Fortunately they dropped a section of complete running for Sunday's race, making lap times in the 12:30 range.
This sand was one of the only ridable sections of the course, and was mildly fast to race through. Unfortunately, at the end of the pit by about 75 m you turned right into a section that was faster to run than ride. Tack on another 150 - 200 m of running there...
Believe me, I was happy to be done on Saturday. I ended up 23rd out of 89 pre-registered racers. 4 laps in about an hour? Yeah, that was the slowest 'cx race I've done in my life. Temps weren't too cold, just muddy as heck. Unfortunately I found my backup 'cx bike was broken on Wednesday, so I didn't have a change for Saturday's race. My bike felt about 15 lbs heavier by the end of the slug fest, and a change or two would have been appreciated.
Mike had some business to take care of with trying to defend the USGP Leader's jersey. Despite a phenomenal effort, Mike wouldn't win the Mercer Cup 10k run. I worked the pits for him and he took a bike every half of a lap. It was one of those few days in 'cx racing where if you didn't have a spare bike you didn't have a chance whatsoever. It was hectic in the pits with the top 10-15 guys having pit crews working to keep riders on clean, properly shifting bikes. Mike managed to hang on for 4th place and retained his WHITE (perfect for the mud...) USGP's leader's jersey for another day.
The PRO men's race was absolutely crazy, with Tim Johnson showing off his mud skills by absolutely crushing Wells and Trebon. Johnson was by far the fastest racer that day, with everyone else suffering in his wake. It was amazing to see those guys tear up the course that I had suffered on a few hours before. There were a few places where I HAD to run that the pros did either, based on their preferences. The biggest difference, by far, was the speed at which they ran those sections. They ran 5 laps on the course, and after about half of a lap there was no doubt who was going to take it home.
Saturday night we found a laundry mat where only three of us spoke English. After cleaning our clothes we packed it in and headed to the hotel. Sunday morning was rough; my legs hurt like they have never hurt after a race in my life. My stomach and almost every muscle in my upper body was sore from running and trying to keep my bike upright in the mud, so I wasn't exactly in the mood to race. On top of that, the weather took a turn and continued the rain but dropped in temperature to the low 50's. Wind was gusting to 30 mph, and of course the park is located on a large lake...
Mike found a Specialized bike over at the tent that I would use as my pit bike, which was invaluable to me. Not only was it nice not having to lift and run with a bike caked in mud, but the path through the pits was faster than the regular course, so it was an easy place to make up ground. I ended up 25th, which wasn't in my goal of the top 20, but considering my inability to run quickly, I was pretty happy with my weekend's results.
Mike's race was another run-fest. It had started to dry out just enough to make it next to impossible to keep momentum, even on the downhills. Mike repeatedly ran down the hill leading to the "uphill" run into the pits because it was faster than riding. Again, bike changes every half of a lap, with the Wiz taking 6th. Unfortunately that wasn't enough to hold onto his white leader's jersey, but he'll be headed out to Portland, Oregon to finish things off in a classic 'cx setting.
That was a pretty fun weekend, and most importantly I learned a LOT. I was happy to be out there but it is always great to come home to Kristie and Kona!