October 20, 2009

Sherwood – Cross Crusade #3, only 8 weeks til Cyclocross Nationals

I cross the finish line, alone.  I have absolutely no idea how many laps I have just completed.  All I know is that the lap counter is blank and the race is over.  I see many of the girls I lined up, 60 agonizing minutes ago, standing near the finish; still catching their breath. 

Only 4 women rode 8 laps this week, I was fortunate to be one of them.

Mom, Mark and Ben were there.  The Sunnyside Team was out in full force (Don, we missed you!). Renee had just won the Master 35+ race, Wade placed 4th in his category, Gina rode strong and finished well, Ruth sported the jersey for the first time and made us all proud. It was a sunnyside kind of day.

And then I got stung by a bee. 

A final check of my wheels and breaks, a hug from my Mom, ready to head to the starting line…..
I felt a fly was on my leg, I swatted at it.  It stung me.  It wasn’t a fly.  It was a yellow jacket….. ouch.
Deep breathe, it doesn’t hurt, I’m fine.  But, OUCH!  I forgot about it.  I had to.  It was time to go.

I got a front row call-up, on the far left side.  My eyes focused on the turn at the end of the first straight away, the whistle blew.

I reacted, and to my surprise, no one flew past me.  I had a good start; no, I had a great start.  Finally. 
After the first couple of corners Wendy and Alice were right with me, and pulled ahead going down the first hill.  I was not going to let them get away and I was not going to get dropped on the down hill.  I stayed right there, right on Alice’s wheel. 

Down the hill, through the corners, over the bone jarring bumps, up the deceptively long climb, through the start/finish. 

At some point during the second lap, Alice dropped her chain and it was just me and Wendy.  I hung right there, just a couple of inches from her rear tire. 

I was right behind Wendy Williams and there was no one else around. 

Up the long hill again… she was trying to shake me, but I was hanging tough.  The crowd was loud, cowbells ringing in my ears, undecipherable, yet familiar voices and faces littered the crowd. 

Mark, with his camera, seemed to be everywhere.  How did he get around the course that fast?  My brain was unable to even contemplate the answer to that question.

I saw Damian in the Pit; Hang on, pedal, pedal, go…..Wendy’s right there, there is no one behind you.  
I went as hard as I could.  Pushing the pedals with as much strength as I find in my fiery muscles.

I am not sure how long I hung with Wendy, maybe 4 laps, maybe 5… but when she decided to go, she went and I couldn’t respond. 

Stay with her Bishop.

My legs were burning, my heart racing. 
I was pushing, but my body didn’t want to listen. 

24 second back, I heard Ben yell as I climbed the hill; the lap counter said 2 laps to go.

Alice was about as far behind me as I was behind Wendy when I saw her with less than 2 laps to go. She was gaining on me, but I was hanging at a steady distance behind Wendy. 

Through the pit and Alice caught me, passed me and was gone.  The next time I could get a look at Wendy, Alice had caught her.  That girl has 3 extra gears. 

During the last lap and a half, I went places I haven’t been before.  It hurt more than the last mile of any marathon, it hurt more than the last 3 minutes of my 12 minute under/overs, it hurt like it should hurt at the end of a race. 
It hurt and it was fabulous.

The final climb and I knew I would finish 3rd.  4th place far behind me, but I wouldn’t let up.  I had to keep pushing the pedals as hard as I could.  My glutes were screaming, my lungs on fires, my mouth hanging open like a gold fish, gasping for air. 

I raced like had never raced before.  I found another gear (I need yet another, but at least I found one).  I crossed the line and had to will my legs to keep turning over, keeping a bit of momentum so I wouldn’t fall over.  I left it all out there and it felt so good.

Huge thanks to the Sunnyside team, Mom and Mark, Ben, and of course Don and Damian – I could not ask for a better team… Here’s to cross and a season that just keeps getting sweeter!

Matt, Mike, and V, well done!

Read the offical race reports here: