I took the start line at Apple ‘Cross next to my arch nemesis* who I am sure thinks I am nothing. The group ahead of us went off, and the two minutes until our start dragged by with each second feeling longer than the last. My heart was racing with nerves. It seemed silly to be so nervous for a 40 minute race, but I was.
Finally, we were off. I got off to a bit of a better start than the last race, but after a few turns, I was pulling up the back of the pack again. I was instantly frustrated and angry at myself. Two emotions that do not really help race performance. I spotted the front of the field up ahead, and thought that maybe there was still hope, they were not that far ahead. I was wrong, there wasn’t hope. At least not today.
I got more and more frustrated through each tight turn as I barely scraped through at ridiculously slow speeds. Voices inside my head told me that if I was really a mountain biker, I should really be able to corner better than this. What an embarrassment I am! And since I can barely remount my bike or clear the barriers, I should be racing 4’s. What a poser I am for thinking I can hang with the 3/4’s. But I should be able to hang with the 3/4’s. At my last race, I lost to people I have never lost to before. At this race it wasn’t much better. What is wrong with me??
While the answer to that question might be many things, I think the most obvious one is a sheer lack of practice. I was able to skate by in cyclocross last year with decent results for 3 races without much effort. In the Cat 4, fumbling on your remount doesn’t lose you too much time or make you feel too stupid. Now it is a different story, and I have a brand new cyclocross bike that I am apparently quite wobbly on off-road and in the corners. Last year, I rode my mountain bike for ‘cross, and I honestly do not feel like the extra few pounds were much of a disadvantage. I can pretty confidently ride the crap out of that bike, but not so much on the cyclocross bike quite yet.
So the first order of business has been getting rid of those wobbles by this weekend. Easier said than done however, with the days getting shorter by the minute. Riding single track on a cross bike in the dark alone = freaky! The other night, I lasted about 15 minutes on the trails after it got dark. I then headed to a less scary location to practice mounts and dismounts. This was nice in the dark however, because no one could see me. I can’t even image how weird it must look to people when I am just constantly getting on and off my bike. However, they would probably think it was even weirder if they asked and I tried to explain cyclocross to them. You ride laps around a course in crazy weather as hard as you can and jump over barriers and grab dollar bills and sausages? Why would you do that?
Anyway, next up is Hyattesville on Sunday, and hopefully I can pull it together and move up a few places.
* I say arch nemesis in the most positive way possible. Many of my nemeses are also close friends.