October 26, 2010

Playing in the Mud - Cross Crusade #4 PIR

Photo: Matt Lasala
Sherwood was hard.
PIR was fun.

Well, it was hard too, but somehow the mud and rain and glimmers of sunshine overshadowed the pain; at least in hindsight. I can’t deny that the race itself hurt a lot, but this is cross. I wouldn’t be racing if it didn’t hurt.

As if on cue, the heavens opened up on Friday night and it poured rain; a hard, hard rain. A rain so hard it work me from a very deep sleep, the kind of sleep you get after working all week, driving over the pass in the dark, and arriving at your mom’s house about 9pm, hungry. So it rained – and it kept raining, preparing PIR for the ever-muddy Sunday that comes just once a year – Cross Crusade at Portland International Raceway.

Photo: Matt Lasala
And PIR stood up to and exceeded all expectations. The course, the crowds, the mud. Brad so kindly added a little kicker hill to the A race, and as always, included the uphill barriers on the sloppiest, slimmest portion of the course. The mud was soupy and three inches deep. The puddles were muddy and bottom-bracket deep. The straight-aways were painful, the monolith bigger that I remembered and the power put into my legs by the familiar voices along the tape was energizing.

I know I completed 8 laps around the mud bog, but I don’t remember too many of the details.

I do remember getting a great start and leading around the first corner, off the pavement and onto the mud.

Photo: Matt Lasala
I do remember flailing each and every time I attempted to gracefully levitate over the uphill barriers. Just for the record, there was nothing graceful about that run-up and I definitely did no levitating.

I do remember what it felt like to be so close to Wendy, watch her accelerate, and not be able to respond.

Photo: Matt Lasala
I do remember seeing Chris Sheppard at the u-turn after the run-up and the feeling of determined to not get caught before the finish.

I do remember the burning sensation of lactic acid in my quads as I made the cut on the final lap, still having one more lap to complete. And a side note: Making the final lap was awesome. It felt like I won something, a smaller race inside the race. Only 3 women made that final lap. I was one of them. That felt good.

Photo: Matt Lasala
It was hard to keep focused that last lap, knowing no other women were behind me, but I kept my head down and pushed the pedals as hard as I could. Most the spectators who had earlier lined the course were packed up, heading for the dry, warm comfort of their cars. But I was still racing. And Don and Ben and Mom were still cheering.

Finish Strong, Stay Smooth, Don’s voice echoed through my ears as I took my final turn through the backside of the course.

I crossed the finish line, exhausted, but thrilled. Third place again, seems to be my spot this year!

Alice and Wendy duked it out at the front, Alice taking the win. Those women are strong – amazing – dedicated. And one day, I will be up there, duking it out with them.

I rode my best race of the season on Sunday. I had a good start. I hung with Wendy as long as I could. I didn’t spaz out. I rode the mud well and smart and controlled. I trusted my skills and myself and I raced well. Each race you learn something; about your fitness, your abilities, your skills, yourself. PIR taught me to trust myself – hopefully I can carry this lesson with me all the way to nationals!

Matt was out East this weekend - check out his recap of his weekend at here.
And head right over to D's website for a insider's look at the Men's A race.