Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oklahoma Road Racing Championship

As Monty Python used to say, "and now for something completely different." I decided a couple of weeks ago to participate in the OK State Road Racing Championship in Kansas, OK. Yes, there truly is a Kansas, OK, all 685 of them.

I haven't been running a lot lately due to a number of factors. One of which is that New Balance in their infinite wisdom, decided to stop production on the MT 100, my personal running shoe, and would not release the MT 101 until October. I personally do not know anyone that works for New Balance, but whoever made this decision, needs fired. My current shoes are wore out and every time I run, my knee hurts because my shoes are shot, but I have to wait until October to get the new ones. I am very picky about my shoes and have not been able to find any to replace them. So, I guess it is time to cycle more.
The race took place at the beautiful Flint Ridge resort community. We were only about 20 miles away from Tahlequah and Arkansas. And no, I could not hear banjos playing while we were racing.

The resort was tucked away amongst pine trees and provided some optimal shade, which was really nice as the temps this day were hovering around 100 degrees. We pulled into the gated community and did not see where to go for the race. So, we stopped at the office and they told us that the race was at the top of the hill to the right. This was a foreshadow of things to come.

We headed up this steep hill to find trees lined with cars to park wherever you could. We did a U-turn up by the registration table and found a nice shaded area to park in. I settled in to getting my gear together so I could head out on a small warm up before my start. I was registered in the Cat 5 group, which is the beginner group. They did not offer a Jersey to the winner in this category, but you could take home medals, 3 deep.

After a few miles of warm up, it was time to head to the start line.
Cat 4's were to start 5 minutes ahead of us, so we lined up behind them and watched them go and then it was time for the Cat 5's. We went through the mandatory roll call and we had 19 people to start. At running races, you always look around to eyeball your competition and this was no different. This was a little different as a lot of this is also about equipment. I had my entry level road bike and several people had there several $1,000 dollar bikes with their fancy team bike kits. I had my tri shorts on with my regular cycling jersey. My strategy was to stay towards the back in the beginning and stay with the pack as we had 4 loops to complete for about 22 miles. At about 9 o'clock we were off.

We immediately started uphill. This had me a little worried as the hills always slow me down from the real scrawny guys. The course wound its way through pine tree lined scenic views along with several housing developments. One of the bad things was that traffic was open and we had to dodge a few cars on the course. The course had several rollers on the first half, which made me hang on as best I could to the peloton. We turned back towards the start line at a rural fire station and this was a more flatter, downhill section to where I was able to hang a lot better. As we got closer to the end of the loop, we were met with a huge downhill followed by a sharp turn to the left with a steep uphill to the start line. It was this point that the group splintered. I really lost track of where I was at, but saw a group ahead and knew I needed to stay with them. I thought another group had went on ahead, but I just wanted to stay in contact with this group.

The group I was in was about 4 of us and we took turns taking the lead and letting others break the wind. As we went past the fire station, sirens went off and the EMT's took off past us. More than likely, someone went down. As went down the hill again, the EMT's had parked in the road and left us a narrow spot to maneuver the hill on. This was very tricky as I hit 41 mph on this downhill. The reason they were there was someone had crashed at the bottom of the hill. Lap 2 was in the bag.

We headed up the hill past the start area and I fell behind, but then caught back up to the group. This was pretty much my loop pattern. They would drop me on the hills and I would catch them on the flats. Some of this was due to my bike being heavier and some was due to me being heavier. Hard to climb hills against a 140 lb. guy.

On the back side of lap 3, I took off and broke away from most of the group for a little while, but they passed me on the downhill. At the bottom, the ambulance was now there and the road was still narrow. Up the massive hill for number 3. Lap 3 in the books and one to go.

I caught the group again on Lap 4 and they were moving slower, so, I took out in front. Nothing of a hard pace, but it was too slow for my liking. Usually you lead for awhile and then someone else steps up and takes over the duties, but no one was having it. I let up and still no one passed. We made to the back side and 2 of the guys took off. This was way too soon and I let them go, but kept them in site. I started to gradually reel them in. I was just about to pass the guy ahead of me, when a guy in a golf cart comes up and said it was a neutral finish. This meant that whatever place we were currently in was where we were going to finish. They had called a neutral because of the bad crash at the bottom of the hill. This was too bad as I just passing the one guy and going after the next. Oh, well. I had no idea what place I was in and thought that I was way back.

I crossed the finish line and talked to my wife and she said that only a few other guys were ahead of me. I didn't believe it, but I at least survived and did pretty well.

I went back to the Jeep and got changed and headed back up to see the results. I ended up 5th, which meant I was going into 4th and may have caught the next guy to go to 3rd. Wow! There were 2 others that were ahead of us in the front group, but we were the 2nd main group. Because of the rules, since I had a 1-day license and not a full USCF license, I was not eligible for an award, which I would have got. The guy in first had a 1-day and the guy in 2nd was from MO, so it would have rolled down to me. It's the thought that counts, right?
Having never been to Flint Ridge before, this was a really nice community and area. I love being surrounded by trees and there were plenty of them. I get tired sometimes of the more open spaces and like the woodlot areas as it reminds me of back home and deer season.
This is one of the beautiful waterfalls in the area. They also had minutaure golf and a full fledged golf course with a pool area. It was truly a nice place to visit.
It even came kid approved. Shannon liked it, but she it not real happy about taking a picture next to Wyatt.

Overall, I had a blast and would really like to explore more of this type of racing, but I am limited by my equipment. I can do with what I got, but eventually, I would need to get a better road bike. Something to think about for the future. The results can be found here.

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