I prayed for rain. Seriously – I prayed all night long.
The weather report last night said 70% chance of rain and I thought, “Oh my god! God still loves me!!”
And then today… nothing. Not a goddam drop.
I guess god is still really still be pissed off at me for sleeping with my church camp counselor ‘cuz he didn’t squirt out a single little shower for me last night or today. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Why was I so up in the weatherman’s grill last night?
Six words: I’m not a real bike racer.
It’s true. I’m a total fake. I have shit for handling skills and I don’t train enough. I’m really not very strong. And I’m not just sitting you telling you this to try to make excuses. Biking just isn’t what I’m good at.
It’s cool. I still love it. I love it in this weird way that I can’t explain. I love the little-kidness of it. I love the “swooshness” of it when you take a corner just right. I love the burning, searing, leg-frying hills.
I love it almost enough to actually give it a good old, honest college try next year. But, dude. The truth of the matter is, I love ‘cross more than anything because you get to actually get off of your bike a lot.
I love to run. I love the barriers. I love the runups. And I’m actually getting a pretty good remount by now.
So I put up a good result at Barlow mostly because the course was so un-rideable that we were off of our bikes for a huge percentage of the race. I may have zero bike-handling skills, and I may not have the lactate-threshold of those around me, but I am stubborn as all shit. So if you throw a course that is muddy and slippery and horrific and impossible, I might just have a chance in hell.
Basically I’m all guts, no technique, no legs.
So I pray for rain. I pray for anything to make the course less of a bike race and more of a war of attrition. You can’t blame me for trying, right?
No dice today.
The sky stayed dry and I think I heard God laughing as I rolled up to the line next to Heather Gunderson, who I knew to be a veritable hammer in my category. My goal for the day was to get a good start. I wanted to be in the top ten going into the first trail section in the back. Gunderson has been placing high and I knew she would be at the front of the group.
Turns out, she’s not only actually and truly fast, she’s also a really nice person. We had a good chat while we waited for the race to start and then we were off. She shot off the front like I knew she would and I tried my best to follow. I was in seventh position going into the back stretch so I felt good about hitting my goal for the day.
Then reality set in.
The course was fast and dry and as we headed into the lumpy-assed grass, I began to take on water. One rider passed me, then another… then another. I kept track until I wagered I was in about 15th position and then I stopped and just started riding.
Ride your race, I told myself. Leave it all out here. Do your best. Don’t worry about anything else.
I discovered that my skills on the barriers and on run-ups are really good. I made up positions every time. I’d remount quickly and ride away from whoever I’d just passed only to have them catch me on a more technical section later.
Not only am I slow on the descent and sketchy on technical turns, my legs were burning before my lungs even knew that we were exercising. As a runner, this is a completely bizarre experience. Coming from a cross-country background, I’m used to the inferno-lung experience of fast distance running, but I hardly ever even felt my legs in cross country. They just followed my lungs.
What does this tell me?
A few things.
I need to ride more.
I need to train harder.
I need to ride some kind of road season next year to come into ‘cross with better base cycling fitness.
I need to get some goddam bike handling skills.
And, of course, I need more rain.
I have no idea how I finished today, but I feel good about the race. I went as hard as I could and I got out of the gate at the start.
After the race I caught up with Gunderson, who’d taken second place. We talked race tactics and training for a few minutes and then departed to get some warm clothes and food.
Despite getting schooled today, I’m in good spirits. Lessons like this are good to learn, however painful.
Now all I have to do is find it in me to process the 2,378 photos that I took of other races today so I can get them up for sale on my site. I’ll post a link as soon as that mission is accomplished.