I think everyone’s experience of a happening is amazingly different. Here’s mine at Cyclocross Nationals…
First of all every trip i do that includes racing my bike feels like a gift. I haven’t traveled alone, meaning without family, for a looooong time. So, taking that into consideration Nationals to me is a luxurious vacation. Compounded by the fact that we are staying at the Les Schwab household. A house I could only dream of. And Bend, well its just one of my favorites.
Thursday I arrive at the course to find it a sloppy mess, perfect. I do have to say that I am feeling cozy and comfortable and it’s hard to motivate to jump in the mud bog. That it is, there are literal ponds to ride through ( I consider them a free bike wash) and the slowest grass bogginess I’ve ever ridden through. The course was SLOW and even though muddy, not that technical. I was a little worried. I don’t ever think of myself as the one who has the “roadie power” that is needed for courses like this. I practice two laps that day and leave the rest up to…all the training and racing I’ve put in.
Friday, and I wake up feeling great. I am really enjoying the time spent with my teammates and friends at the race. I eat my latest concoction of a power breakfast, oatmeal with chia seed, pecans, dried cherries and sometimes a little peanut butter. The chia seed is the secret ingredient.
Off to the course and it’s race day for me. Masters 35-39, last year I finished 3rd a good distance behind my friend Kerry Barnholt, an ex-Worlds Team member. I told her after the race that the only way I might win is if she didn’t show up. Not likely. BUT, I had been beating her this year, there was hope. I didn’t pre-ride because I had confidence in my two lap recon mission the day before. I had heard it over and over through the weekend, people telling me I was going to win. I liked the confidence they had in me but didn’t like the expectation and pressure.
To most in the Elite cycling world this race didn’t mean as much but to me it was a goal I had set for myself one year ago, I was going to win. I wanted to feel what it would be like to wear the red, white, and blue.
The whistle blew and all those thoughts disappeared, it was me and the course. I lead the race for its entirety and had one bobble that certainly made me very nervous. My handlebars got caught in the tape and robbed me of about 15 seconds. Barbra Howe, last years champion in the 30-34 age group was gaining on me. I was able to hold it for the win and I can honestly say, I haven’t smiled that big across the line in my racing history.
Ok, here’s where the BOOB part starts. An old friend whom I used to race downhill with lives in Bend owns the coolest clothing store in town, Vanilla. Her name is April Lawyer and she contacted me about modeling in a breast cancer charity event called Breast of Bend. It would be Friday night after my race and all I would have to do is hang out, get my hair and makeup done, then walk down the runway and try not to pull a Carrie. For those of you who don’t watch sex in the city, check out Carries modeling debut episode. Being a stylist I have been around a lot of these events, it was nice to be on the other end this time. Just look hot.
I know I kind of let you down on the boob front but hopefully the blow-by-blow of my elite race will make up for it.
Saturday was a rest day and time to reflect on the course, my race and the whole season for that matter. It was here, just one more race and done, the National season is over. I have had a long on-again off-again, relationship with racing, so I have seen seasons come and go. On to the next. But this season, essentially my rookie season on the national cross scene, was different. It carried so much more love, emotion, and friendships. Seriously, I feel it in my chest. I truly love the sense of community that the cross season promotes. It’s family, with family.
Game on. Actually I am fairly relaxed and am thinking “it is what it is”. I have already accepted the outcome, whatever it may be. I am trying not to repeat the pressure I have put on myself in the past. Come on, you’re a Mom who does this for fun, part-time.
This year I will start in the second row, not the last like 2009. I like the hole shot, or at least as close as I can get. This way you are the only one responsible for your own mistakes. I have had a great start all year and I like to attribute it to being in the slalom gate all those years ago. Your start can make or break your race in a matter of seconds. So put your best foot forward and click in.
The start for our race is not much different for me. I hover around 4th or 5th, any further back, you can’t avoid disaster. Now I am behind my teammate, Sue Butler. I honestly don’t remember what happened next but i find myself in a solid third. Katie and Georgia have already done their thing and passed me (I’ll leave them for another day, year…) two laps to go and I am still all alone, the girls are about 30 seconds back, in cross time this feels solid. Except for when your brake bolt breaks!!!!!!!! Yes, it did, I pulled, yanked, cursed and the brake would not unlock. As if the course wasn’t hard enough. Through the grass section and its like a hairy monster is on my back forcing the wheels to sink deeper and deeper into the muck. I am creeping now and I can hear the announcers screaming of the impending doom. On to the road section and I make a decision–get off and try to unclamp the brakes. One, two, three tries and I move on. As soon as I get on my bike, Meredith, Sue, and Kathy zoom by. my heart sinks but does not give in. I get to the pit exchange bikes and this is where the race begins.
I catch back up to my teammates and we ride the rest of the two laps together, passing each other when we can. It’s a brutal battle. Half a lap to go and I decide it’s time to make my move, right before the technical section. It works I gain a 10-12 second advantage, I’ve got it! I just have the fly over and a few more corners and I am home free to a 4th place podium finish. Then it all falls apart, coming off the fly over I take the corner too sharp, tag my handlebars on a stake and am instantly ejected from my bike. Get up! get up! get up! PANIC!!!!! Sue and Kathy pass me, I try to ride but my bike won’t let me. I run, with everything i have and catch them at the stairs. I push past them on the stairs, and my legs are at a pain threshold never experienced. Jump back on the bike ahead and i can’t clip in!!!!! I try, try and try. Again, I have lost what I had battled so hard to get, they pass me. One corner and the finish straight and I give in. I accept that I have gone above and beyond and that it just wasn’t going to work out. My teammates battle each other at the finish and round out the podium. The podium yes, all that I wanted. I had it, lost it, had it and lost it again.
Of course that’s it, if you’re not on the podium your performance may go unnoticed, no questions, videos, pictures, mentions, or considerations for Worlds Team.
I finished and realized I had put so much of my heart and soul into those last 15 minutes that I was overwhelmed with emotion that I wasn’t able to control. I needed a release so I found a car, hid behind it and cried, cried, cried. I can honestly say I can not remember a time that I have ever cried after a race. The outlet felt good. It’s those moments in life that you feel truly alive and powerful. This is what cross brings.
I can’t tell you how many times the events of my race play over in my head. I cringe and feel a pain in my heart every time I think of it. I honestly believe that I was not meant to finish where I wanted for a reason. The crash was my first self-induced crash of the season. what are the odds? and the mechanical? i look up^
Time to wrap it up, drink a beer and concentrate on the boys race. Cheering always makes me feel better, giving your energy back! Then off to the house, shower, and PARTY. Well, the night ended a little blurry at 4am. I can’t remember the last time that happened for me.
Ok I’ll wrap this up. i just want to give some thanks to my sponsors, family (my amazing and supportive husband), and friends who made this one incredible season! Next, Worlds?? Only if I am lucky enough to be picked. Otherwise, it’s on to my Standup Paddleboard season, with Boardworks so stay tuned!