The Oklahoma Cyclocross Season has been a blast - PERIOD. Some of the best courses, great racing, generous hosts, and noticeable improvement from the people coming out. This is the first time I've not traveled out of state for a race, mostly because it wasn't necessary. We had options the whole way through almost every weekend. If I had goals around Nationals (not yet, but future) then I'd considered hitting something big time up. But there is a really fine line in Cyclocross between motivation and progress vs burnout.
It's got to do with the intensity of the events, how gear hungry (and destructive) the races are, and the flurry of events all in a row that make it hard. Hard to stay motivated, hard to keep the right kinds of progress moving forward, hard to stay committed with your Roadie or MTB friends are all shifting gears. CX has a real loneliness factor to it, especially after the daylight saving change of schedules.
Anyways, that little rabbit trail was to say I think the schedule of events we've got in Oklahoma is a perfect balance of challenge, but with space to breath, to make it through a full season and have a good sense of satisfaction.
Now, there are two more weekends of racing in Texas for those still hungry for a couple more races. Resolution & Highlander Cups in Dallas and Waco the next two weekends. But Ruts and Guts was the endcap for my cx season this year.
Ruts and Guts was fantastic. Killer course, and top level pro's talking about how well it was run - even saying on their own it'd be a great Nationals Venue. How incredible would that be for Oklahoma to host the National's event!?! Anyways, the course was great. We got a little preview of it at the Flyers CX race earlier in the season. As with most of the OK cross courses this year you had to have a quality mix of Technical Skill & Fitness to race well. Ruts & Guts nails that on the nose. You can't go "full roadie" and do well there, but there are enough power drags that you've got to have more then handling ability to get a good result.
The start of the Men's Open (Cat 2/3/4) had 4 rows of racers with a good mix of Arkansas, Oklahoma and some Texas representing. I had a back row start since Sunday's staging is based off of Saturdays Results. But at the gun I was able to jump in the right line of riders and get up towards the top 8 or so.
How I rode, technically, in the next 2-3 laps I'd like to apologize to the guys that were around me, HAH!. We don't get a lot of practice racing with a big group in the local races and I was a hot mess. Sliding out in a corner, then botching the sand section twice in a row - I was either in the midst of bobbles, or creating my own which was costing precious seconds.
But laps 4 and on things calmed down as did lap times. I ended up with Chris Dakin and Cody Greenhaw for the mid section of the race. Both of those guys have been racing well and improving over the season so it was cool to be battling with them. The change in position and smaller gaps between us was ongoing - a great battle throughout the race. Eventually on the down hill sand section Dakin had a chain drop that put him 10 seconds or so off of Cody and I.
Cody and I's position was 8th/9th respectively through the 2 laps to go mark. But our battling was keeping our pace high and we could see the larger chase group of guys sitting 3rd-7th creeping closer. We were able to catch 2 of them as they bobbled in their own battle in the uphill sand. I rolled the dice and was able to get through clean past them on the right, with Cody getting caught up with them.
That gave me about 5-10 seconds on that group of three with 1.5 laps to go, and the group of 3rd-5th about 20 seconds ahead. From then it was just full gas which had me spending most of that lap with that upper chest nausea that's a good sign you are at your limit. Cody was able to break free from that smaller group and give chase and we were both in the pain cave that whole last lap.
I was able to hold a narrow margin that pushed all the way to the finish and hold on to 6th. I was happy with how the fitness felt, never felt I had to back down from going all in at the right moments. If I'd been a little more "chill" or comfortable with the first couple laps of pack riding I think I could have had a chance to hold onto that 3rd-7th group. Ray and the Mad Duck kid were riding on a level of their own - getting a 50 second lead on everyone else just a couple laps into the race.
It was a blast to have such an active, constant battle on such a challenging course for the last race in the CX season. Couldn't have asked for a better day!
Now it's onto a December of letting the intensity release a little and building that endurance volume back up in prep for the road season.