This year, cyclocross is a completely different ballgame.
I have a team.
I’m not afraid.
No. I’m ravenous.
I remained ridiculously calm last night.
I stayed calm this morning.
I screamed my head off for Sally.
I shook my cowbell with fervor.
Then I set up the trainer and I warmed up.
It had rained all night long and it had been raining all morning without a single, solitary break.
Over an inch of rain.
With the women’s heat so late in the day, there had already been thousands of riders tearing up the course by the time we got to it.
The mud was almost a foot deep in some places. And I’m not talking about mud-puddles – I’m talking about extremely thick mud.
So much of the course was impossible to ride it was almost insane. I ran and ran and ran – bike on shoulder. I remounted and descended at full speed through mud despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what was underneath it – roots, ruts, holes, ditches? Fuckit.
Balls out, no brakes.
More than once.
In the most fantastic crash I actually slid 12-15 feet, face first, after departing from my beloved bike. I slid so far that I actually had to run backwards in order to retrieve my bike, whose front tire had stuck firmly in a hidden rut under the mud.
When I went down, a woman in my field just behind me called out, “Are you ok!?”
I was. And I told her so. And then she said, “Dude! That was the best crash I have ever seen!”
I got back on my bike, muscled my way through more gnarly technical mud, man-handled the torturous off-camber grass section along the back-stretch and then gassed it to the finish.
As I went, photographers were snapping away. Bright flashes in my eyes. As I approached them, I knew exactly what was going on in their heads. I could see it in their eyes.
I was the shot of the day. Smashing my pedals over and over toward them, gritting my teeth, covered in the darkest version of mud, from head to toe. Only the whites of my teeth and eyes showing through the brown.
I finished fourth and I am goddam proud of that result.
It’s the best I’ve ever done. It’s bang-up, considering the intimidating course and absolutely mind-boggling conditions.
As I came zipping around the final curve I saw Sally on the sidelines and heard him say, “Wait… is that her?”
I was almost unrecognizable underneath my coat of mud. Even to my boyfriend.
I crossed the line and congratulated the woman that I’d beaten by just a few bike lengths. She was the same one who’d seen me go down for the head-first slip-n-slide dive.
“I swear to god,” she said again, “that was the best fall ever… ever!”
Sal and I have just reheated leftover chicken, barley, and wild rice casserole. We’re sipping wine-in-a-box (it’s budgeting time!) and reliving every hairy corner and every sketchy descent.
I’m a bike racer! I’m a real, live bike racer!!!
Sally navigating the mud!