It was a lot to do after a full day’s work and a not-full-night’s sleep. The night before the race I did not sleep well at all, maybe three hours tops. I woke up that morning in a Benedryl haze feeling less than awesome. I dragged myself to work, drank way too much caffeine, had an unhealthy lunch that my stomach did not love and, around 3pm, realized I was nervous. Crazy, green-around-the-gills, stomach-clenching nervous.
It was stupid to be nervous because this was just a small, casual, training race. No prizes, no crowds, nothing but trails i ride all the time and a group of riders I mostly know. Stupid to be nervous, but OH I WAS ANYWAY.
Because it was being run concurrent with a cyclocross race, there was a confusing start that zig-zagged up and down a large hilly field before the two groups split, the mountain bikers (men and women together) hitting the single track for a two mile short loop, the cross racers cutting back towards the field. I’m a bad starter in any kind of terrain, but man, I do not do great on steep grassy fields. Despite starting relatively slowly I still entered the woods sucking wind, nauseous, and feeling like I was going to die. The usual sprint race feeling.
The entire first lap felt like this:
I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t swallow, I could barely see for the dust, I felt like ten different kinds of awful. I did manage to mostly hold my position (near the back) as we dropped into the trail, crossed a bridge, up a steep climb, sharp left, up and down some fairly intense singletrack, around to the switchback on the very top of the hill, down the hill, a sharp left onto the short gravel fire road, across that cement bridge (the one I posted about in my last entry), up another long climb, up a short switchback section, down and around the parking lot, back into the trails, more up and down roller coaster type stuff, up a hill, across a walkway, back down the trails, onto another walkway, ride down some stone steps, bunnyhop up a stone curb, ride up a stupidly steep hill, around the cones and back in for another lap. Or something like that.
I did three laps, the first two were both at about 17 minutes per lap which is pretty slow comparatively, but, while I’m familiar with the trails and can ride them pretty fast, some sections were super dusty and I was afraid of slipping out and going down hard. (Hi! This is foreshadowing.) I am also not the best at climbing and tend to pace myself slower than I probably should in a race.
My second lap was much better, overall. I was feeling a more recovered and was definitely more collected. I rode everything clean and barely saw another rider. I was pretty much expecting to be lapped by the leaders at any point, but this didn’t happen until my third lap and it happened at the most awkward spot imaginable:
Yeah. The edge of that turn is just a drop down a steep hill. Luckily those guys are REALLY fast and know how to pass, but I was still all, “wha?” and slightly shaken. I got to the bottom of the hill, took the sharp left to the fireroad, hit a patch of gravel and went down like a ton of bricks. Is that not the uncoolest way to crash in a race? On a patch of gravel? On the fire road? I was MAD. Not to mention filthy and bleeding, but I picked myself up and got back on and just kept going. I just wanted to finish this thing. I think I messed up my derailleur when I went down because I couldn’t seem to stay in my middle ring and had to ride the whole second half of my last lap in my granny gear. But I finished, and I didn’t come in last.
At several points during the race I remember thinking how much I absolutely was NOT going to do the final series race next Wednesday. No way. Not a chance. But afterwards, as the pain wore off and stories got bandied about I found myself saying things like, “Well, next week I’ll know to avoid that spot.” And the guy who was behind me for the entire race (who I beat, mind you) mentioned that I seemed to be spinning too fast when I could’ve been in a harder gear. ORLY? Thank you, dude, for telling me how to beat you more next week. I call this phenomenon “race amnesia” because if it didn’t happen nobody would ever do more than one race, ever.
So yeah. Banged up and bruised but already plotting next week’s torture session.