I started out the weekend raking the forest in preparation for Capital ‘Cross in two weeks. When you are not riding your bike over a million leaves, sticks, and acorns in two weeks, you can thank ME, and about 20 other Bike Lane team members. It turns out that raking the forest and then returning home to do your own yard work is kind of tiring. But that’s OK because I only had a RACE the next day.
Race morning started out in a flurry of stuff going on. Caroline was doing her second ‘cross race on my mountain bike, so I got that set up for her. Then I watched her race, quickly got ready for my race so I could watch my husband’s race (until I got sidetracked by a loose cleat), jumped on the course as soon as his race was over, worried about a slow leak in my front tire, finished my warm-up, and headed to the start.
I started out bad bad bad, as usual. The 3/4 women never line up correctly, so instead of being in the front like I should have been, I was in row 2 of two crowded rows. I ended up behind a bunch of people after the start, and we quickly arrived at the sand pit as a large group. I rode through the sand on my practice lap. Easy peasy. However, when the not-yet-spread-out group arrived at the sand, it was like the Sand Apocalypse. I just saw people going down all around me, in front of me, next to me, everywhere. It’s like they were riding over landmines. So I got off and ran. We snaked across the sand three times, and I think that I stupidly tried to get back on and ride a section, but that didn’t work as the Apocalypse continued.
Sand Apocalypse made me SO MAD. I wanted to podium in this race and I was WAY in the back now. In reality, it probably set me back a total of 3 seconds, but in my mind it was no less than 15. I started to hammer as ferociously as I could, looking for the next person ahead of me to catch. Luckily there were many of them. The course wasn’t overly technical, but I made my share of stupid mistakes. Things like turning early for the sand and almost plowing through the tape, messing up in a turn or two, poor remounts, and not getting clipped in quickly.
On my second lap, my husband told me I was 10th. That was comforting at least, since I knew I could move up a few more places, but I figured that podium was out of the realm of possibility for the day. By my third lap, I made my way back up to my usual group of nemeses, and my husband told me I was 7th. I went back and forth with one woman for most of my third lap, but was finally able to shake her at the end of the lap, and worked my way up to 6th.
Heading towards the sand on the last lap I passed another woman, now I was 5th. I saw her out of the corner of my eye getting ready to pass me back after the sand, but we were going into an area that was tricky to pass and I was NOT going to let her get by. I hammered and dropped her to maintain my 5th place with 4th place just ahead of me. I inched my way up and blew by as hard as I could with my high school cross country coach in my head yelling “Pass her don’t pace her!” Even more relevant advice for cycling than for running since drafting is a real thing. However, I was kind of shocked to be passing her, since I had not beaten her before.
Now I was in 4th and 3rd place was just ahead. I stayed close behind and passed her in the last third of the course. I knew I was going to have to be as efficient as possible through the technical sort-of-a-run-up, because I would likely lose time on my remount. After that it was a sprint to the finish. She was close behind me going into the technical section and I could hear every word of advice and encouragement her friend had been giving her from the sidelines since the last half of a lap. As I finished that section, I shifted into my big ring and prepared to sprint hard. I heard him telling her to get in her big ring, so I figured she was right behind me.
I sprinted as hard as I could down the last stretch of road, every second thinking that she might be right behind me and about to pop out next to me. I didn’t look back because I never do. I’m afraid that if I see a gap I might lose motivation long enough for them to catch me. As it turns out, she was not behind me at all and my husband and friends were confused at why I was sprinting so hard. I swear, she was RIGHT behind me.
So I was THIRD. Third out of 19, which is a decent sized women’s field for these races. My husband, Caroline, and her friends ran over and congratulated me with shock and amazement. I told them to not look so surprised that I was 3rd! They replied that going from 10th to 3rd was in fact pretty surprising. I guess they are kind of right about that.
Next on the to-do list was podium, beer, and waffle sandwiches. Not a bad day.