I'll admit that my excitement for racing this year has been pretty hard to muster. There have been only a handful of road races, and a few more MTB races - down a significant number from previous years. I have been riding, but the racing just wasn't doing it for me.
But, it's "fall", and that means 'cross. And I am finally excited again about the prospect of getting out and racing! I love this time of year, and I love the feeling of a just finished cross race - knowing that I have gone out, and laid it all on the line for 40 minutes.
Two weeks ago, Mike and I headed out to Monson for our season opener in advance of the pending hurricane. The forecast was for overcast skies and humid temps, but no rain until late in the afternoon. On pre-riding the course I was VERY excited about the changes from the previous year - no more "I'm-gonna-poop-my-pants" downhill followed directly by the "I'm -going-to-have-a-heart-attack" climb. I liked the changes in general, though the laps were going to be on the short side.
Mike's race was first, and he had a demon or two to tame on this course over last year ;). He raced really well, quickly catching the 1/2/3 field that started 10 seconds ahead of him, and getting through most of them. I'm never sure which one of us is more excited about him having a good finish, but his reaction on crossing the line showed that he was pretty excited about his win - as was I.
I went off after his race to get ready, and Mike took the juniors out on the course for a preview. We were all racing at the same time, which was going to be - um - interesting. As we stood ready to race, the beginnings of the rain started, and it POURED. So much for the rain holding off until AFTER our race! The rain made the course conditions much more challenging - what had been dry for Mike's races was now mud-riddled and sloggy for us. The poor conditions, in addition to witnessing a junior racer (thankfully, not one of ours) introduce his face to a chain link fence made me race tentatively - not a good approach, and something I needed to work on. I wasn't entirely happy with my performance, but I looked at the race as an opener for the season.
Mike and I pre-reg'd last week for the upcoming Quadcross race, and I started obsessing. I checked start lists, and I checked them again. I looked at the crossresults.com race predictor. Then I started "freaking out" (in my friend Vicki's words) about the race. In fact, Vicki and I went back and forth a bit, and it was through those interactions that I realized I was being dumb. So much of racing is mental, and I needed to give myself a swift kick in the back end to realize that I have the engine - I needed to WANT it. So, I changed my attitude - I wanted to race. I was going to go hard. I was going to be aggressive. I WASN'T going to give in to self-doubt and self-talk. This is MY season!
So, after remembering how to pack the car for two people racing a day of 'cross, we headed off to Quadcross. In year's past, this has been held in Bedford - entirely convenient for us to roll out of bed and over to the venue! Unfortunately, a new venue had to be used this year and we had to drive all the way to *gasp* Maynard :). The venue was spectacular, and I have to say, the course was A LOT of fun.
The combined Women's 1/2/3, 3/4 and 3/4 Master's 40+ fields had 85 racers! That is A LOT of women out enjoying one of the most fun cycling disciplines you can find. It was also fun to see so many NEBC women on the line (11 in total). Because the Master's women were lined up BEHIND the 3/4 women, and starting at the same time, a good start was going to be essential. Unfortunately, I found myself suddenly behind a woman on an MTB who needed to borrow a t-shirt to wear under her sleeveless jersey! YIKES! That aside, I tore up the left side as hard as I could on the start, and made good headway through the field ahead. Then it was a matter of being smart and getting through as much traffic as possible, as quickly as possible.
It was confusing to know just who from my field was ahead of me - Andrea from CCB passed, as did Michele and a racer I didn't know. I figured that meant that I was sitting in about 4th place. I continued to push hard through the whole race, and at the finish, expected that I had ended up about 6th or so (ironically, where crossresults.com said I would be). Turned out I missed the Cycle Lodge women having a better start than I did! I ended up 7th, but ahead of some fast women I typically don't (or am lucky to) beat. I was really happy with the way I raced.
Instead of changing, having some food (and a beer), and taking in the aura of a 'cross race, I spent the next couple of hours on my feet - first watching our juniors experience the wonderful world of pain that is cyclocross, and then watching Mike's oh-so-competitive Master's 1/2/3 35+ race. Mike had a terrific race, finishing in 5th place! Of course in that time, there was also some socializing and running back and forth. I'm pretty sure that all of that was good prep for the coming SS race later in the afternoon ...
Yes - for some reason we decided that racing a SECOND time, on the SS bikes would be a good idea. There is a real SS series happening this year (though I think zip tied shifters are cheating) - 6 races with a raffle for a custom Zanconato frame at the end of the season. What's not to love about racing SS 'cross bikes?
Unfortunately, the standing, running, lack of eating and hydration and the almost 4 hours between races was enough to put me in a bad place - massive dehydration headache and legs that were shouting "ARE YOU CRAZY?" on my pre-ride lap. Of course, I shouted back "STFU legs!" and went out to race anyway. A good number of men lined up, but only 3 women, so the officials set us off about 15 seconds behind them. Like my previous race, I went out hard, trying to distance myself from the other two women. The defining moment came on the second uphill on the course - Cait rode it, and I had to run. Poo. I managed to stick with her for awhile, but then my legs stopped listening when I told them to STFU, and they started screaming back. I did finally manage to ride that uphill (screw you, legs!) for the final three laps, but it was too late - couldn't catch Cait.
I did get lapped by a bunch of the men, including Mike. I was surprised not to see him near the front of the race, but when he went by, he let me know that his chain kept popping off. He needs to fire his mechanic :). After arriving at the race venue at 8:30 in the morning, racing two races, catching up with the 'cross family, downing one beer at the end of the day, and collecting some sweet coffee schwag for the SS race, it was time to finally head home - after 5 pm! It was a long day, but I am SO PUMPED now for the rest of the season.