October 27, 2008

Learning to Race Cyclocross (Astoria)

Cyclocross is hard, very hard. Your legs burn, you can't breathe, and your stomach starts to do very strange things about 30 minutes into the 45+ minute race. On the flip side, Cyclocross is more fun than I have had since I was 10 years old, playing on the jungle gym at recess. No, I can not profess to be having fun while gasping for air and shooting snot rockets (although this is a little fun). It is the whole experience that is rewarding; the warm up, the cool down, the beach weekend with my teammates, my Sunnyside kit, the red tent set up next to the van, the smell of French Fries and GU2O and Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, but most of all, crossing the finish line and letting your legs spin slowly and finally getting in a full breath after 45 minutes of anaerobic effort.

I am not the best bike handler out there, nor am I the strongest - and I am certainly not the fastest, but I am tough, when I choose to be.. and I put on a really mean face, or so my friends say.

I raced well this weekend, placing 2nd on Saturday and 1st on Sunday in the Women’s B category. Saturday I was in the lead for the whole race, until I dropped my chain at the start of the last lap. I fixed it quickly, but not quickly enough, as I got passed and couldn’t catch back up – I lost by about 5 seconds. I was thrilled with 2nd, but knew I could have won.

Sunday during my warm-up I was tired, my legs weren’t fully recovered from my effort on Saturday and I was nervous in regards to how I would perform… “maybe I shouldn’t race” crossed my mind, but I quietly put that thought to rest. Racing is much too fun to pass up. The whistle blew and we were off the line, both the Women’s A and Master 35+ categories in front of my group. I wasn’t the first off the line, but after the first long hill and 6 pack of barriers, I thought I was in the lead of the Bs (you never really know, it is so hard to keep track). I kept passing people the whole race, first the masters, then the As. I couldn’t believe how many As I was passing, given that they started a minute before us. (Each category has a different numbering system so you can tell who you are “racing against”) The hills are my strong suit so I just kept hammering up each one and trying to make move after move. With one lap to go, I really went for it. I dug deep, passing at least 4 more A in that lap alone. I felt strong, tired, but strong and I bit my lip, and stood up out of the corners. I crossed the line and for a split second thought maybe I have another lap to go…. But to my relief, I was done. Let your heart rate come down Bishop, breath, pedal.

I didn’t know if I had won, and while I hoped I had, I didn’t really care, I rode hard and I felt great about the effort. Ben was there, cheering and yelling, along with my other Sunnyside teammates, Wade, Chad, and Don – and John R from Web, giving me points on the tight 180degree turns. I saw Mary and waited for Renee and Karen to come through the last turn and to the finish. Everyone was exhausted, but smiling. I loved being a part of team, I love cyclocross, and I really love racing – you have 45+ minutes to test yourself – you can get tired and slow down, or get tired and race harder, it is up to you. I choose the later.