Took time this weekend to attend and race both days of Spooky Cross. This is a local event put on by local guys JJ Bailey and Tony Nichols. The second installment of this race took place in the fields and hills of Living History Farms in Urbandale, IA. This was my first 'cross weekend and served as a break in for both me and my new Specialized SingleCross. In preparation for the weekend's activities, I geared the bike down as much as I could (to a 39 x 18) and hoped for the best. On Saturday, I raced in the "first time" category. This was a 30 minute plus 2 lap race. The course had a fairly soft section along the edge of a soybean field, and one long climb, but was otherwise flat with a couple of barrier sections. By the start of the race, temps had warmed to the mid to upper 50s, so I was able to ride without anything on my arms. I went out hard on the first lap, and came across in either first or second place. As I started my second lap and climbed out of the first section of barriers, it was apparent that I had started too hard. After two laps, I was definitely cooked and had all I could do maintain a solid pace for the remainder of the race. With a few laps left. I took a beer hand up courtesy of Kyle Sedore, not knowing that I needed to drink it all, or else I was going to wear the rest of it the next lap. Kyle was apologetic about covering me with beer, as I rode up the gravel road the next lap. I could, however, feel his smirk burning itself into my back as he metted out some 'cross justice on the new guy. All in all, a good time on Saturday, with a few lessons learned and no damage to either me or the bike.
Sunday gave us a different course, and much different weather. Winds were howling out of the WNW as early as 7 AM, and really picked up starting at 10 AM. The Cat 3/4 race started at 11:45 or so. By this time the airport was showing winds in the low high 30 to low 40 MPH range, with gusts of over 55 MPH. I went out easier at the start of this race and felt better all of the way through. The wind was only a factor as we exited the woods and came through the start finish area towards the first set of barriers. The flat open hayfield gave us no cover, so all we could do was keep pedaling until we turned north. Scot Sumpter and I were trading spots back and forth from about the second or third lap on. Scott was catching me on the couple of uphill segments that I needed to run due to my gearing. On the next to last lap, I caught a spot of bad luck and ended up dumping myself and the bike ass over tea kettle into a mud puddle at the corner of the bean field. Covered with mud from the shoulder blades on down, I hopped back on the bike, and kept plugging away, despite feeling a large lump on both my right shin and right calf. Sumpter followed behind me on a section of gravel road, questioning me about the difference in my kit colors between this lap, and the prior one. Having just gotten passed by the leaders before exiting the woods, Scott and I were both pulled at the end of the penultimate lap. Our race weekend was over.
With the race site being only a few miles from home, this was the perfect way to get introduced to cross racing. A little bit of road biking and a little bit of mountain biking all rolled into one. However, the races are not cancelled due to wet conditions, snow or ice. You "run what you brung" and deal with the conditions the nature deals you. The temporary nature of most of the courses makes this possible. After the winter snows have fallen, and given way to the green of spring, you won't be able to tell we were there. I can see why people like this disicpline, and I can also understand why people like to watch as well. Hopefully there will be some additional races in my future, if not this year, then next year for sure.