This past weekend was the opening two rounds of the Mud, Sweat, and Gears Cyclocross Series and every year since its inception in 2004, I have vowed to reach September fit and ready to race. This year was no different than the others - I came, I saw, I was ready to suck.
Here's how it unfolded:
After a spring and summer of working 50+ hour weeks, I found myself riding my bike once, maybe twice a week. Sure there is the trainer I could have ridden. I could have also stuck toothpicks under my fingernails and learned to play the Harp too. Where's the fun in that? After working the first half opening day, I arrived at the venue armed with my mountain bike instead of my cross bike and planned to lay waste to the mtb class. No, really, for the first time ever, I planned to win a race and I did. It rained and the course was a total slopfest and there is one thing I can do and that is ride in slop.
We lined up and in 3, 2, 1 we were off. I dug deep and got a sweet holeshot, led the first lap and pissed it away the first trip through the barriers... So much for great plans. No losing my cool, I got on the new leader's wheel and just followed him to see where he was strong and where he may be vunerable. About a lap later, I passed him and that was the end of it. Game, set and match to Duckman. It was a small field and I probably had more slop riding experience on fat tires than all the others combined but hey, I still had to pedal the dang bike and stay off the ground. I'll take it.
Sunday was a different story however. I lined up first in Masters 45+(1234) and initially there was some confusion as to how we were starting. They had us (all 50 35+ and 45+ combined) headed straight into this really narrow and slick off camber section that was sure to produce great loads of carnage. After and appeal from pretty much everyone, the start was moved to a straight and boom! We were off. I came through the first turn in 6th and made it through the barriers and first part of lap one pretty good. My demise came when we got to a log laying in the middle of a turn. I had ridden it several times during my hot laps so I knew it wasn't a problem. The guy in front of me didn't know that though. Nuts, meet stem. Stem, meet nuts. You are going to be good friends. For the next 45 seconds, until the urge to vomit subsided, I was passed by I dunno... 4, 5? Meh.... Just turn the pedals and go.
The next place to give me a fit was a steep, muddy little run-up that had no traction anywhere. I got great scores in creativity for my unique grouping of cuss words. It was frustrating but it is what it is. I tried to ride as clean and fast as I could for the remainder of the race and my lack of race fitness was more than evident as I bled positions until I bottomed out at 14. Dead mid-pack. Hey, not bad for not training all summer.
I rolled right around and right to the line for the start of the Cat 3 race. When I burn out, I want to scorch the earth.... I had no illusions whatsoever of doing well in this race my goals were simple: Not finish last, not crash and not get passed by the entire women's Pro field that was starting behind us.
I actually got a decent start, somewhere mid-pack but the fade to the back came much quicker than in the previous race. Fifteen minutes into the 45 minute race, I was in 20something place and suffering like a Yak giving birth to twins. I was so tired, I mis-timed one of my dismounts and raked my shin across one of the barriers and then tripped over my bike trying to remount it. I was filled with joy from this. Some people are cutters, I race cross.
I didn't sandbag though and I rode with whatever I had left for the remainder of the race and when I finished, I was finished.
I looked around and saw women still on course, I didn't crash (although I was bleeding from 2 of 4 limbs) and later check of the results would show I missed DFL by 2.
Thus begins my Cross season. Maybe I will train for next year.