September 4, 2009

Thrilla #1

That’s right folks, I finally got a skin suit.

So the skin suit is a long story, but to summarize, I have one, I wore it and I went fast.

Thursday marked the first day of Cyclocross Season. For the entirety of the road-racing season I have been thinking about cross; about riding the Yeti, about dismounts and remounts and run-ups, about mud and dust and cowbells. And now, it is upon us.

My nerves were on the edge; twitchy, uncertain, anxious. The turn-out for the first race of the WebCyclery Thrilla Cross Race was excellent, much bigger than last year and I recognized a number of out-of-town faces as we lined up. Among the locals, pros Ryan Trebon and Chris Sheppard were in the mix. The course had been expanded to spread out the field and challenge both the descending and climbing ability of the racers; bombing down into the gravel yard and climbing back up again. As I preroad the course with Renee, my only comment was, This is going to hurt.

As I stepped up to the line, I looked around at the other women. This was really going to hurt. I was fourth off the line, not sure where I would fall in and quickly moved into 3rd, then 2nd. I stayed 2nd wheel for the first couple of turns and on the first little climb, moved into the lead. And then I went for it. I had about 50 minutes of racing ahead of me. How long could I maintain the lead? How strong were the other girls, how strong was I? I never looked behind me, I just road.
The first set of barriers went well… okay, I calmed down a bit and kept hammering. Steep run-up, down into the gravel pit, I was passing some of the guys at this point and hoping that the gap between me and the rest of the girls was growing.

I didn’t look at the time board until it said 17min + 2 laps to go. I tried to calculate the number of laps I had already completed & how many more I had to go; but this sort of highly complex mathematical equation is impossible when you are choking on dust, grasping for oxygen, and trying to navigate through a bunch of guys.

It didn’t matter how long there was to ride, I just needed to keep riding hard until 2 laps to go and then ride harder. I stayed within my limits, feeling strong each time I climbed the hill out of the gravel pit, legs burning only slightly, recovering my breath any chance I got. With two laps to go, I had a pretty good lead, No Mistakes Bishop, Don’t Get Sloppy.

At this point my goal was to not get passed by the leaders, I wanted to ride both of the last laps and not get cut.  2 more laps, no problem. I made it over the berm and back into the front section of the course right as I heard the announcer say something about the leaders being not to far behind… deep breathe, go harder, don’t get caught. I made it up the hill and across the start/finish line without seeing the wheels of the leading men. One to go.

Chris Sheppard crossed the finish line, winning, soon after I had started my last lap, so there weren’t many people behind me. All the other women had been cut-off. I would win, but I didn’t want to slack off, I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I passed a couple more men on the final lap and crossed the line to an anti-climatic finish full of friendly faces, covered in dirt.
Inside I was smiling ear-to-ear, on the outside, I was gasping for breath and coughing like I had black lung.

Thrilla #1 down; a whole season ahead of me. Either Damian knows what he is talking about or my new skinsuit is really fast. Now, if only I did something about my helmet.

Check out race results and photos HERE