I’m never sure how to feel about Hyattsville. The pancake flat twisty course doesn’t give me a single advantage, but then there is the wooded section that no matter how they configure it, it always seems to help me out just a little bit. I watched a lap or two of the Master’s 3/4 race to plan my course of action through the woods. But on their last lap, someone disturbed a hornets nest, prompting the race directors to close that section of the course for the next race as well as the pre-rides.
I was anxious to pre-ride that section, but it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. More concerning was the thought that maybe they would take it out of the race all together. I would gladly ride over wasps if the alternative was to remove the only technical section of the entire course.
It wasn’t until I was on the start line that the officials confirmed that the woods were in. I didn’t pre-ride it, but no one else did either. I was probably the only one who had even seen it at all. We were off. Around the park and eventually into the woods. But what I faced upon entering was completely different than what was there earlier. Instead of a sweeping wide turn up the climb, we were just going straight up. It didn’t look rideable, so I immediately jumped off and ran, passing a person or two in the process. The log at the top looked bigger than last year, but I rode it and started down the deep gravel descent with concrete curbs that made small drops. Definitely a little sketcky on a cross bike, but I knew that if I went as fast as comfortable, it would still be faster than many others. I was very impressed with the last minute reroute, and I thought the new option up the hill was just as good as any other version of the course.
Every time through that run up, I gained a small bit of time back from the flatlanders. I was finally thankful for all those terrible runs I have been doing for the past few weeks, desperately trying to get my long-lost run fitness back. And I totally crushed my barriers. I used to struggle through them, barely able to lift my bike and get my feet high enough to get over them. Maybe it’s the weight saved from ripping off that useless front derailleur, but now all of a sudden I can fly through like I’m not even carrying my bike. The problem arises when I get to the other side and I’m going much faster than I am comfortable remounting and things get a little messy. But I’m getting closer.
Somewhere around the 4th and 5th laps, the girl I was chasing exploded into fastness and completely disappeared in front of me. Since we have finally entered modern times and we now have electronic scoring and lap times, I know that I didn’t slow down. At the same time, I felt pretty confident that the women behind me were not going to catch me. This left me alone, racing no one but myself. “Go faster,” I would say. Nothing. Behind me I could see the 3/4 leaders closing in, but I felt safe enough from them. Based on their times, they would have finished just ahead of me. I look forward to them moving up to the Elite race so I have a few more carrots to chase. The races are much more fun with more people around.