It was almost two weeks ago to the day that I stated with absolute resolve that my cyclocross season was over. 2010 CX Season. Over. seemed a fitting title. Then, somewhere along the way, I found myself worried about the race, the state jersey, and all the what-if’s that go along with those kinds of thoughts. But, there was a family trip to Arkansas planned for the same weekend, and after not visiting Charleston for over a year, we really couldn’t miss this one. That was until work asked me to be available Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. No trips to the office; simply be available just in case. YES!
So I set up the trainer and got busy with intervals and tempo rides, even though training the week before doesn’t have that much impact, other than to set that racing mindset. The week off was untimely and I was down with a nasty stomach virus for 4 days. Oh well. Since the season was already “over,” what’s there to lose? By weeks end I was amped and ready to race. Then I saw the weather forecast: morning temps in the low 30’s with 20+ MPH winds; that’s not exactly what I had in mind. So, after all the excitement and prep work, on Friday night I rationalized that I really shouldn’t race the next morning.
If I was amped to be racing, Zach was over-the-moon excited. He cheered all week about his race, how great he was going to do, and the stories he was telling at school. Nothing like added pressure from an 8-year-old! I told him Friday night that it was too cold. His face melted. I walked outside with him and asked, “can you be comfortable in weather like this???” Dumb question; easy answer. Then he told me how excited his whole class was that he was racing in the Missouri Championship. Grrr. “But, Zach, it’s going to be really cold tomorrow morning, too cold for you to be outside.” No change, just more sad eyes and words of disappointment. Fine. I gave in. What’s there to lose–other than a finger or a toe to frost bite?
We loaded up the next morning and headed for the venue. Just as the weatherman promised, it was cold and windy. The temps weren’t bad, but the wind cut like a knife…the kind of cold that no amount of clothes seem to help. And, to think, we were about to strip down to basically our underwear and parade around for 45 minutes.
After all the hoopla and (in)decisions of the week, I finally found myself on the line, ready to race. The field was a lot smaller than I anticipate, with only 18 other Masters 35-39 racers. I started planning the start and first lap: basically, stick on Chuong Dong’s wheel (he was lined up in front of me) through the start, and then try to move up on the second half of the first lap. After that, gut check.
At the whistle, I found myself stuck behind slow traffic. “What are these guys doing on the front!” echoed through my head as I shifted up 2 gears and jumped to move around them. I made my way up to Chuong’s wheel by the sandpit, and planned to sit in and catch my breath until the next run section by the river. WRONG! After the sand, the course dropped into the parking lot, bounced up the curb and turned a hard 90 to the left. In spite of a little extra work on this section during warm ups, I completely blew the corner. I made it over the curb with no problem, but somehow completely lost it in the corner. I slammed hard on my left side but didn’t really hurt myself. It was one those down-and-back-up slides the pro baseball players do going into third. While I fell gracefully, my bike took a hit that resulted in the handlebars turning 90 degrees to the right. I hit em once but they didn’t move. 3 guys shot post. I hit even harder; 4 or 5 more shot past. Another hard hit; getting close, but the last guy was long gone and the first CAT 1-2 female racer (who started 20 seconds after us) just went by. I jumped back on with the bars mostly straight, and started to recalculate how the f I was going to make this one up. Then, I remembered that a CAT-1 female was just up ahead and she was flying. So I buried myself, bridging to her wheel before the halfway point of lap one. I stayed there for the next lap–she was cutting through the men like a cold knife…OK bad analogy…but she was moving me up!
After following for a lap, I realized that she (or I) wasn’t moving up any more. So I said, “thankya, ma’am” and moved on. I could see the front of the race, which was out of reach, so I set my sites on something a little more attainable: just get back to the top 10. I made my way around a few more racers but ran out of laps before I could reach #10, finishing 11 out of 19. BLECH!
Afterwards, I know that I didn’t have State Jersey or probably even a top-5 in me. But, after the effort I put in, I easily woulda finished top 10. But, as they say, such is racing. I went down and suffered for it.
Zach had a pretty good day, finishing 5th out of 6. I felt for him as he pedaled around the course. This was probably the easiest course he raced all year, but because it was a state race, a whole new level of competition showed up. He didn’t stand a chance riding on a single-speed BMX bike. Despite getting dropped, and eventually lapped, he stuck with it. I’m a proud pa-pa!