Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Cross Nationals - Women's B

What an experience! This was my first season of 'cross racing, and thus, my first visit to Nationals. I was inspired to see the number of racers in all of the fields this weekend, but to line up for a race with 61 other women, representing 19 states, was truly amazing.

Standing on the line, the woman next to me declared, "this is getting cold" and I chuckled in response. It turned out that she was from Smyrna, GA, and was used to 70 degree temps! I told her the 40 was warm for us at this time of year, and she grimaced.

When the whistle blew, all 62 of us were eager to get the race underway. Unfortunately, a crash on the start line took down a number of riders, including two of my teammates. I managed to get around the bikes and bodies, and tried to sprint up the pavement with everyone else.

It is important to note that there was some rain and/or frost on Saturday evening, making some of the opening sections of the course SLICK as SNOT. Really - that is the best way to describe not only the first two corners, but also the off-camber "slip and slide".

I got lucky enough to be on the outside line in the first corner, which allowed me to get around the second crash of the race. I could see that another of my teammates was involved. From here, I negotiated the "slip and slide" - an off-camber section of the course that had women who chose to ride high, sliding to the bottom along, and through the course tape. Somehow, I made it through all of the chaos intact, with both wheels firmly on the ground!

On either the second or third lap, as I was going over the barriers, I heard Mike yell that I was in 33rd place. ACK! I couldn't believe that I was working this hard, and was that far back... Neither could the woman who was beside me - she let out a groan.
I felt really good yesterday though (better, in fact, than I had on Friday) and kept on pushing. I managed to catch a racer I haven't been able to beat all season (who was riding dressed as Wonder Woman), and passed her. I worked really hard to try and stay ahead of her. The good thing was that spectators would call out "Go Wonder Woman" along the course, so I could usually gauge just how close to me she was . On the third lap, she and a rider from California got by me on the second greasy corner. Mike had offered to change out my tires before the race for some better mud tires, and I opted not to - bad choice. Two times around this corner, I slide all across it trying to get ANY traction and/or forward direction, and both times, the tires completely clogged with mud making navigation of the "slip and slide" treacherous (especially when forced into a high line!).

After Wonder Woman got by me, I felt a little deflated, and sat up for a couple of seconds before chastising myself. I KNEW that if I could stay with Wonder Woman until the pavement on the top of the course, that I could catch her. I hunkered back down, keeping her within about 5 bike lengths, and managed to pass both she and the CA rider on the pavement as I predicted. I put a little bit of distance between us here, and increased that at every opportunity - this was the final lap of the race!

Every now and then, I could get a look back to see where she was, and put the hammer down just enough to stay ahead. On the final sprint, I didn't even look behind me, just geared it up, and went. As I crossed the line (ahead of Wonder Woman and CA-girl), my HR was at 180, which I thought was high. HA! Apparently I worked for where I was - average HR for 45 mins was 179 with a high of 189! YIKES! I finished 33rd.

I am really happy with my finish yesterday, and with the season that I had. Although yesterday I was celebrating the end of a VERY L-O-N-G season, today I am more sad that it is over. I will miss all of my riding/racing buds over the winter months...It was amazing to me all weekend, the number of people spectating who would call out my name. I told my DH that I didn't know who half of them were . It did make a difference, to me and to the other racers though, having the support of our friends, teammates and fans.

Here's to the end of a great season of 'cross in 2006. Who's going to Kansas next year?

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