October 11, 2010

Don't Spaz Out - Racing at Rainier - Cross Crusade #2

The Rainier Sky Photo: Andrew Keippela
Last week, after my unfortunate run-in with a stake on the Alpenrose course, my coach told me not to Spaz Out.

Are you calling me a spaz? I asked, half joking, half serious.

The truth of it is; last week, I rode like a Spaz (notice the capital S). I was all over the place, unsure, lacking confidence, inconsistent with my lines, rushing through the motions, way too jacked up on Cross Crusade fever. I needed to calm down and trust myself.

All week, I thought about Rainier. I thought about the starting line and finish line and the barriers and the playground that isn’t so fun when you are gasping for breath and know the huge pain-cave of a hill is lurking the corner. I wanted to have a good start; I wanted to race controlled, smooth, fast. I wanted to finish the race pleased with my riding, no matter the place I finished.

When the women were called up to the staring line on Sunday afternoon, I had my own cheering section. Papa, Kacy, Andrew, little Max, Ben and even Minute were there. I glanced over to see Papa holding Max, both smiling as we got the 30-second warning.

Ride smart, Bishop, ride clean.

Right behind Wendy, but not for long.  Photo: Dave Roth
The whistle blew; I clipped in, and went for it. I led around the first turn and up that torture of a climb and as we turned onto the first single track, Alice, Wendy, and Bridget went around me.

Stay with them.

Over the roots and down the hill, Alice got a small gap, Wendy and Bridget were in close chase and I was holding on. I remember most of the first lap, at least the first two-thirds of it. I passed Bridget and bridged up to Wendy, I was on her wheel for a minute or two, and then we went around a corner and she was gone. She just took off. I didn’t see her again.

Each time up the hill of torture, I could see Alice, on the single track. I would stand up, passing a couple of guys, but never able to gain much ground on her.

The backside of the course was muddy, peanut-butter-like fabulousness. Pushing the pedals with every ounce of strength I had in my legs, I got through the slop, up the kicker hills, down and over the roots; my lines were good, but I used a bit too much caution. Not enough weight on your inside handlebar, Ben told me afterward. And use your pedals, none of this neutral pedal stuff, he reminded me.

I didn’t know how much of a gap I had on Bridget, I kept thinking she was right behind me, which pushed me harder, only to realize I was alone or I was being passed by one of the Men’s leaders. The course was long and before I realized it, we had 1 lap to go.
Last lap, 10 more minutes and these 60 minutes of torturous bliss would be over. Familiar voices seemed to be around every turn, pushing me just a little harder.  Every corner, I was out of the saddle. I took the greasy corners safely, not wanting to make any silly mistakes on the last lap, but determined to hold my speed where I could.

 In the Pain Cave, but loving my Smith Pivlocks
Photo: Pat Malach
I crossed the finish line; Ben and crew where there to greet me, covered in mud and smiling.

Third place, Ben said.
How far back?, I asked.
It doesn’t matter.

Third place and I raced well. I was controlled. I didn’t spaz out. A bit of confidence returned.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
This I am beginning to learn.

More race coverage:
Velo News
Oregon Cycling Action

Bend Cyclocross