Sunday, January 1, 2012

#CCCNYR Sunday: Terminal Wind Chill

Racing cross late in the season requires a good head for the weather and being able to anticipate conditions well enough to dress properly from head to toe for your race. Isobars and wind chill mean something to cross racers, you just gotta know what level of Mad Alchemy to put on the legs.

Sand pit lip exit
Today reminded me of a comedy bit by Lewis Black, which I have cleaned up to ensure kids can read this, about wind chill. His contention is that weathermen should stop reporting wind chill. "It's 27 degrees outside, but with the wind chill its -3. Well, then its -3! I don't need to know what the weather was like if the conditions were perfect!" This is quite true in cross - when I am racing I really want to know what conditions are going to feel like - and that has never been more true than today.

In fact today I started to wonder if there was such a thing as a terminal windchill? Does the wind ever reach a speed and a resulting low temperature where even the weather man gives up? If so, we had to be close to the wind speed today. Tents and riders were being thrown around like a piece of paper in a breeze, with riders on the course feeling the same way. The kicker was the combination of weather and ground conditions.

Over night it was warm enough to rain a little bit - not a lot, but enough to make things wetter than they were before. Since the course had been rutted up on Saturday, the water collected in the ruts making the muddy sections even deeper muddy sections. Then add in the course configuration and topography. Almost all the deep muddy sections were on a portion of the course that was part of the typical driving range at the golf course. Driving ranges aren't manicured like the rest of the course and they routed the course through the drainage areas of the driving range.

Isn't Chicago famous for cement shoes?
Also on the driving range they had sand traps - for targets for the golfers I assume - that weren't your typical sand pits, but lined with a fine gravel. Each one had a large lip to get out of the sand pit. This fine gravel would pack into the mud that just got on your tires and packed into them and add weight and grit to your tires.

If that wasn't enough to destroy your mojo you had to add the wind to the mix. The long muddy section leading to the second pass of Goose Poop Hill was into the wind, including the run up Goose Poop Hill.

Let's do the math on this. Uphill mud into fine gravel that sticks to your tires up a steep lip exit of the gravel pit to another uphill mud section to a run up of a hill made of aeration cores and goose poop to a remount on top of a hill, all with a 35-40 mph head wind? Oh wait, I forget to mention that the wind was blowing so hard on top of Goose Poop Hill that your bike would nearly be ripped from your hand as you were trying to set it down to remount. That and it snowed for most of the women's Elite race - in a sideways, white, blinding sort of way.

We had a lot of "cross" weather this year in the OVCX, but you have to trust me when I say that our worst OVCX weather was a cake walk compared to today at Chicago UCI.

Spencer brings home more Goose Island root beer
Here is Mackenzie's take on today's conditions. "Haha, we thought this was gonna be an easy course! Well, WE WERE WRONG. When you're in Chicago and the weather changes as fast as you can give up on your New Years resolution, the course is likely to be muddy. Like, mud tracks on the sand and pavement muddy. The entire course under a layer of mud muddy. And if your like me, and you get a flat after your first time past the pit, then you have to run the entire way back to the pits. In the mud, over Goose Poop Hill, through the countless sand pits, and hope you don't collapse. And, if your also like me, the toes on your shoe covers (just the toes!) will come off so they are sticking off the top of your foot like a unicorn's horn. And then, because of all the mud, you will have 10 pounds of mud in each of your shoes by the time you finish. I don't know about you, but I don't practice with 10 pound weights on my feet. The wind was so strong, while I was standing in line to wash my bike (and shoe covers..and shoes...and gloves...) for 30 minutes, I almost got knocked over more than a few times. "

In racing news we saw Messer once again claim the 30+ race win. It appears Andy is in fine form to contest nationals in Madison this year. Also in great form is Spencer Petrov. Spencer lined up with the 15-18s today and was holding first place until his prescribed 30 minute timer went off and he sat up. He  claimed second and another 4-pack of Goose Island root beer. Wonder if there is any connection to the Goose Island selection with Goose Poop Hill on the course? Probably not.

In Elite news Sue Butler revenged a terrible start yesterday with a win today. It was not without drama as Sue had issues on the first lap of the race again today, but less drastic and still had enough to collect herself and chase down everyone to claim the victory.

Eating and keeping up with The Best Bike Blog Ever
The Elite men saw a ton of pit action trying to keep bikes functional. With the dropping temps (33 degrees at race start) and the high winds (35+ mph at times) the wind chill was creating muddy, frozen drivetrains. If you think about what the pit action in a mud race involves, then lower the temperature to right at freezing and add in the wind chill it becomes very difficult to clean bikes. Trebon and Powers have very dedicated and experienced pit crews and on a day like today that makes a huge difference. The two of them race pretty much the whole race together, with Trebon edging Powers at the end of the race for the victory.

With so much mud in the OVCX, the last few ICX races, and now the Chicago UCI weekend I am praying for weather that is cold enough to keep the ground solid in Madison. My dishpan hands need some Palmolive to "soften the hands while washing the bikes."

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