November 8, 2010

Racing Up North: Seattle Cyclocross

Photo: PDX Cross
Last night, in my hotel room, I checked the OBRA page for results. I was anxious to learn the story of the day’s race Hillsboro Cross Crusade, the 7th race of the series, the first I had missed. I felt like the kid who missed the big party as I scrolled through Candi’s email, looking to see how everyone finished. Damian placed 4th, Don won decisively, Wendy held off Alice, Heather and Breanna represented Bend well, rounding out the podium in 4th and 5th.

I raced yesterday too, up north; in the Seattle Cyclocross series. In a pumpkin patch, through the mud and the slop and the grass that, when combined with mud, threatened to rip my bike apart.

The Seattle CX Series is a lot like Cross Crusade, a bit smaller and with timing chips that you strap across the top of your helmet, but mostly the same. Bob’s Red Mill was on site, there were lots of rubber boots and families and smiles and mud. Did I mention the mud? In case I forgot, it was muddy! Very, very muddy.

I rolled into the venue, Maris Farms, a pumpkin patch turned cross course, 2 hours before my race start. I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t know how to put that silly timing device on my helmet and I had a hard time pinning on my number while wearing my skinsuit. (Note to self: Pin on your number before you put on your skinsuit.)

By the time I signed in, pre-rode, got dressed, put my wheels into the pit and jumped on the trainer, I had 45 minutes till go time. Perfect.

I got in a quick warm-up and headed to the start line. I was ready. Kristi Berg was the series leader and I fell into the second row behind her as we awaited the whistle. I knew I wanted to stay on her wheel.

The race began and within 60 seconds, Kristi and and I were out front. The course was one half muddy sloppy slop, one quarter off camber downhill, and one quarter super steep uphill – but almost all ridable.

I stayed on Kristi’s wheel for the first half lap, over the barriers and up the run up. On the straightaway, I took the lead and never looked back. Knowing this was only a 45-minute race, I went all out from the start. Saving nothing. 45 minutes is still a long time, but for some reason I had convinced myself it would be short and quick – so I went for it from the gun.

Every corner, I powered out of. Every straightaway, I picked off a few more guys. Every time I thought my lungs were going to explode, I promised myself 10 more seconds. With 4 laps to go I had a pretty good gap, and it continued to grow until the finish.

I crossed the finish line – I had won. It felt good, but in a strange sort of way. No friends, no teammates, no Ben to share the moment.

I stood in line for the bike wash and chatted with some friendly folks, but it wasn’t the same. I collected my wheels and went back to the car. I was covered in mud and shivering – just me and my bike and my mud covered skinsuit.

As I stood in the parking lot, mixing my recovery drink and trying to wrangle out of my skinsuit and into my jeans, I realized, once again, the importance of the team. We race because we love it, we race because we are crazy, and we race because it brings together a community of people who understand. Who get it. Teammates and friends who suffer the same pain, feel the same joy, and generally love this thing called cross.

After loading the car, before getting back on the road, I sent a couple of text messages.
How did it go?
 I anxiously awaited a reply.

I might not have been in Hillsboro cheering for the team, but I was certainly thinking about them. Next week is Barton – and I will be there, with bells on!