Monday, April 25, 2011
I Fought the Demons - And I Won!
Racing is supposed to be fun. We don't get paid to go out on the weekends and ride around as hard as we can for 2+ hours, so it should be fun. Right? Then how come this race got in my head so badly, making the nerves and anxiety what I remember most?
I like the Winding Trails course a lot, and was really looking forward to this race - especially after a really good solo MTB ride during the week prior. I had heard about changes to the course, and on pre-riding, determined that they were for the better - more twisty windy singletrack, but even fewer places to recover. It was going to be an all out sufferfest for sure.
The nerves and anxiety started on the line. I have always done well at this venue - winning twice, and finishing second one other time. I looked around at the women in the Cat 1 field, and was suddenly intimidated. What if I didn't do as well this year? My nemesis, Sue L was here - I can't beat her, was what I told myself (in my defense, the last time Sue raced here she beat all of the Cat 1 and Pro women, and put 11 minutes into my time). I wasn't where I wanted to be on the start line. It was going to be tough, and the mental demons were waging a war that they were intent on winning.
Thankfully, on the whistle, the demons quieted their war temporarily - enough for me to focus on getting a good position going into the singletrack. Oddly, as the first woman on the trail endoed on the log in front of me, cursed like a sailor, and then cut me off as she got back on her bike, it was me telling her that she needed to be calm. Me - 1; Demons - 0.
With only two young'uns off in front of me the first lap, I went hard. Too hard (and I knew it). Approaching the finish of the first lap, I knew that Sue was gaining on me. Then, she passed me, and I couldn't counter. I had gone out too hard for the first lap, and it wasn't going to be sustainable for another 3. I watched her ride away, and never saw her again. Me - 1; Demons - 1.
I pressed on in the second lap and was surprised to be passed by another racer late in the lap. I was now in 3rd place. Me - 1; Demons - 2. This wouldn't do. I had resigned myself to 2nd place before the race even started, but I was intent on NOT finishing 3rd! I got my head back into the race, and out of the war to chase her down and pass her back. Me - 2; Demons - 2.
Despite lapping traffic (including causing Mike to bobble and slow as he tried to get by me - never a good thing to get in the way of your spouse ;)), I managed to stay in front of the remainder of the women for the rest of the race (although in the final lap, I could certainly see people gaining, and had to put in an extra effort to maintain my position). I crossed the line in 2nd place - goal achieved! Me - 3; Demons - 2. Sue bested me by 6 minutes (hey - this is an improvement!), and I managed to hold off the next woman in my field by a mere 32 seconds. It was a victory with a slim margin, but I would take it.
In the battle of me vs. the demons, it appears that I won ;).