November 11, 2008

Racing is a weird thing to do - Cyclocross #7

Racing is a weird thing to do, especially among people you like… you stand on the starting line, wanting to make conversation and smile and laugh, but really, deep down, you are thinking about the race; about the starting whistle, about who you can beat and who can beat you, about winning and not winning, about who how you will navigate the first turn, the run up, the off camber side-hill slide.
For those few minutes after the line-up has been called and before the whistle blows, your stomach turns, you have to pee (not really, just nervous energy), and you hope you can get your foot in the pedal when Candi blows the whistle. And then it is time to ride.
This weeks race was held at Portland International Raceway, a great course (probably my favorite thus far in the series) with loads of sloppy, thick mud, a number of off-camber slippery hills and turns, and very well placed barriers, one set on a great, longer than usual run-up; just my style. I was a bit nervous about my bike handling skills being up to the task, but when the race started, that was the least of my worries. The whistle blew, I heard it, I am certain of that, but for some reason, the rest of the riders started moving forward, like one should do at the beginning of the race, and I felt as though I was standing still. “Hold on, wait for me” I wanted to yell. I couldn’t get my left foot into my pedal and was stammering along at a snails pace.
Reality hit, I needed to start moving; “Go Bishop – get moving”. Finally I was off, in about 25th place, way back, feeling horrible, but I put it in gear and spent the first 4-6 minutes of the race trying to regain position. Ride harder, get moving, you are better than this. After negotiating the first couple of tricky sections well and taking a few outside lines, I was back with the front pack and pulling ahead…. I didn’t know if there was anyone off the front, but was soon in front of the main group. Cyclocross is tricky because I am never really sure where I am in the standings until the race is over, which works well because you can never relax, always pushing forward to pass the girl in front of you, and there is always someone in front of you (it’s a loop).
At the first big run up, I heard familiar voices; the voices of my friends, teammates and other Bendites that just like to cheer for the kids from their side of the mountain. I passed a couple of people going over the barriers, a few more and the straight away, and then on the super tricky slippery section, I decided to run the whole thing, which provided to be the right decision as I was able to keep a tight inside line while others were literally sliding down the hill and then having to climb back up. A quick remount, a couple rollers and then a tight left hand turn where Murph, Currier and the rest of Portland crew were yelling their heads off for me or at me I am not sure, but either way, It was awesome! I was able to hold a great line on that corner ever lap and come out onto the long paved stretch determined and confident.
Each lap played out about the same, except for the 3rd lap when I bit it and fell in the mud – but a not too costly recovery was made and I only lost a couple of seconds. I swore loudly when I fell, hoped there weren’t any kids around and was all the more motivated to grind through the sloppy mud as hard as I could.
They cut our race short and when I thought I have 2 laps to go, I really only had one, meaning I came through the finish line not sure I was finished. I would have rather done another lap, endurance suits me and although during that additional lap, I could have lost the lead, it would have been nice to race for the full 45 minutes.
PIR was the 7th race in the series, I have done 5 of those 7 and am in the points lead for the Women B. Next week is the last race and is worth double points. It isn’t all about winning, it really is about having fun, but when you are racing well and the win is within reach, you want it, or at least I do. Next Sunday will be my last Cross Crusade race as a B, next year, I will move up and race with the Big Girls, and I definitely won’t be winning.