When we arrived at the venue on Friday it was no longer raining, but the ice and snow was melting and creating a big, muddy mess. I did a couple laps on the course, and wasn't feel super comfortable with it. There were big muddy descents with unpredictable ice patches under them. Sometimes the ice felt faster, certainly there was less resistance than on the mud, but if you slid out you were going down fast.
I got a front row call up! Coach Larry came up to get my jacket and told me, "Hole shot." Right. Yes, that would be nice. The official blew the whistle and we were off. I missed my pedal but just kept going without worrying about it - eventually my cleat would find its way in. I was probably 2nd wheel as we went into the dirt, but I had a moment of doubt and got passed by a few people. I was still feeling solid, riding probably 6th wheel, not losing any time. The course went up a short steep climb, then down a descent that started as hard packed dirt and transitioned to ice and mud. From there we turned right into the set of stairs, then dropped down a short, curving descent. I was maintaining my position, and some of the girls ahead of me were riding the descent like ninnies so I took a chance on the icey line, hoping to make up a couple places. Unfortunately I slid out, landed right on my butt on the ice, and slid down the hill while my bike remained at the top. I had to run back up and get my bike. I think I got passed by 6 people during the time it took me to do that. So that kind of sucked. But you know what was rad? The whole thing was so ridiculously fun. Even sliding down the ice was fun, if frustrating. I got back to work, picking people off, but was mired by some slower traffic and by that point all the podium spots were out of my reach. I ended up 7th, which was frustratingly close to a nationals podium. I crashed one other time, this one in the pit as I got tangled on my own feet and fell on my bike. You want to see what kind of damage a bladed spoke can do to your knee when you fall on it?
But here's the thing: I had a great race. My fitness was very good, my bike handling was killer (there was a long, muddy, sketchy descent before the barriers and every time I rode it the rowdy spectators told me I was making up tons of time on the girls ahead of me on it), and I rode the last lap as strong as the first. I had fun the entire time, and actually wished they'd sent us out on another lap. It left me wanting more. That's exactly what bike racing should be.
We had one day off between races, and I opted for a short trainer ride to aid in recovery. Other than that I tried to relax as much as possible and stay warm and healthy. The forecast for Sunday was looking rather grim - predicted high of 21 degrees. Ouch. That means that all those footprints and tire tracks and deep ruts in the mud were going to freeze solid.
I did two laps on the course (while wearing my down jacket) on Sunday morning. The first was while it was still early and everything was hard as a rock. Sometimes you'd be riding on a smoothed out, if frozen, track and you'd hit an ice patch and get all squirrely. I wasn't feeling very comfortable with it. By the time I got out on my second practice lap the sun and been shining on the frozen ground for some time and it was actually softening up in places, even though the air temperature was still well below freezing. The softening trend gave me confidence and I was starting to get excited to race.
I had a decent call up, fourth or fifth row, but as I was rolling to the line I realized my front tire was feeling a little squishy. Sure enough, I had a slow leak. My fabulous teammate Christina was lined up next to me and I said, "Christina, I think I have a flat tire." She felt it and was totally cool, "You'll be fine, just to straight to the pit. I've ridden on tires that low, you'll have no problem." The pit was only a minute into the course so I didn't have to go that far. I wasn't ready for the whistle, but managed to get going pretty quick. My front tire squished around on the pavement and I dropped back, afraid I was going to take out half the field. When we hit the dirt I found myself very far back amongst girls who weren't riding the half-muddy ruts very well at all. The tire handled better on the dirt than the pavement, so I took some chances and motored around a number of people. The turn before the pit was still hard as a rock and people were going really slow so I jumped off to run around it and went straight for the pit. Then, I tripped over something. Maybe my own feet, maybe just the rutted ground. I laid it out, landing on my knees and hands on the solidly frozen earth. Ouch. I picked myself up as quickly as I could and hobbled the whole length of the pit to where our crew was waiting with my bike. In conversations we've had since the race it seems they couldn't figure out why a flat tire was making me limp like that. Haha. Anyway, got my bike and started rolling, passing as many people as I could. As I hit the climb I realized there was something very wrong with my left index finger. I couldn't use my front brake, which isn't a big deal, but it also made holding the bars more difficult. If it had been my right hand and I only could use my front brake I probably would have quit, since I would have been hitting the ground every 15 seconds. At this point I was determined have fun, pass as many people as I could, and do my very best. The course was very muddy, and the mud would freeze solid in a matter of seconds on our frames. My derailleurs only sometimes shifted, the rest of the time they froze into place. My fitness was good, my bike handling was good, and I passed a good number of people. I ended up getting pulled after a couple laps, along with over half the field. My glove was now tight around my rapidly swelling finger. I headed to the medical tent and determined that it probably wasn't broken. I got to cheer for my teammates who finished 11th and 12th. I was happy with how I dealt with a bad situation, from the flat to the finger, and I truly enjoyed my race. Again, what more can you ask for?
Anyway, the rest of the day was spent indulging in adult beverages and off-season food with my wonderful teammates. I flew out with a couple of them on Monday afternoon, and was so happy to have friends with me while we were stuck in Cleveland for 4 hours waiting for our connection. Cody picked me up at the airport at midnight.
Decompress. After 3 weeks away it's great to be home.
So ends the 2012-2013 CX season for me. I'd love to go to Louisville, but honestly I think I'm just ready for a little down time. You can bet that I'll be watching it from home, though!
I had such a fun season, and I grew so much as a bike racer. I owe all the thanks to my fantastic team, LadiesFirst Racing, our fantastic sponsors, most especially Milton Cat, my super coach and team director Larry who gave me all the tools to succeed, and my inspiring teammates and all of NECX who make every race a big awesome party. Thanks to Scott and Seaside Cycle for giving me the flexibility to race, a job I love to go to, and access to the best equipment in the world, and my co-worker and buddy Kurt who gives so much to NECX, Ladiesfirst, and myself, every single weekend, and his mini-me Matthew for the race-day dogsitting. Thanks to Oscar of rOti Cycling Services for keeping my bikes running great throughout this muddy season. Thanks to my parents for always supporting me and wanting to hear about my races, my dad for taking me on epic rides, and my mom for always providing sympathy even for the most trivial of injuries. Thanks to all my non-cyclocross friends who always root for me and want to hear about my racing even if they think I'm a little nuts. And of course thanks to Cody for giving up his weekends to pit for me, preriding the courses with me and showing me the fast lines, talking me up when I'm feeling fat and slow, supporting me in all my crazy ideas, and being a constant reminder of what is really important in life.
Post-masters race mud-shot.
Pretty cold on Sunday morning!
What a mess! The pits were like a war-zone.
A little post-race locally brewed recovery. My left index wasn't any help in holding onto the beer, but I figured it was sort of like icing it, right?