Monday, September 28, 2009

900 Extra Seconds of Suffering is a Lot of Suffering

Nine hundred seconds. This was the difference between the pop-tart, cream-puff level suffering at Starcrossed and the Tabasco-sauce-and-battery-acid-in-the-throat suffering of Battle at Barlow.

I won the Women's B race yesterday. My first cyclocross "W" and I'm really grateful for that. But nothing about this race was fun, graceful, coordinated or even remotely exhilarating. Simply, it fucking sucked.

Yes, I know. If you're doing it right, racing cyclocross is supposed to suck. Especially when one's Saturday pre-race hydration plan included six beers, four gin and tonics and two of something pink in a martini class. The suffering that comes with that sort of "race prep," I deserve. And I can control that.

I can also control waking up and getting to the race in time for a decent warm-up. And whether or not I decide to ride like my ass is on fire for the first lap of a race, consequences be damned.

But heat. Heat is something I can't control. This is becoming progressively more frustrating. Even with the weather in the mid-70's, my body refused to regulate itself properly. I love this time of year, warm days and cool nights, but have officially gotten to the point where I can't wait to race in the rain.

Enough of that. Here is how the race went down.

Lap 1: I went out hard from the whistle, got the hole shot and was out front for most of the first lap and a half. Barlow has the most challenging run-up of the season (in my opinion). There are two choices: a shorter route up a set of railroad-tie stairs that are too high for anyone under 6'8 to actually "run up" or a longer route up dusty and loose single track.

The first lap I attempted the stairs.

By the fourth step-up, my hip was screaming "NO THANK YOU, YOU STUPID BITCH!" Although acupuncture has finally loosened the problem muscles, those muscles have lost conditioning and were in no mood to heave my 150 pound ass, plus a 18 pound bike, up a dirt hill at full speed.

After the run-up, the course continues to climb for another 50 meters. It is totally ride-able, IF you are in the right gear. First time up, I had forgotten to shift down before dismounting my bike and had to grind my way up and out of that section. Even through exhaustion, I wouldn't make that mistake again.

Lap 2: After ten minutes, the burn has set in. But I was hoping that after two laps, I would be able to settle in, become one with my burn and recover for a bit. Didn't quite work that way. I realized that I was in a bit of trouble the second time through a false flat up and out of the woods and onto some practice fields. After the problems this summer, I'm acutely aware of when normal suffering starts to cross over into hands start to tingle and shake.

I realized that I was going to have to let up. Either that or pass out. So I let up. Two riders in my group pass me. I have two goals at this point: (1) keeping within 5-10 seconds of the lead while I try to get a little recovery and (2) not quitting. Because all I really wanted to do was roll off the course, take all of my clothes off, pour a bottle of HEED over my head and hit myself in the head with my own shoe until I passed out under a tree.

(Photo: Tim Schalberger)

Laps 3, 4 and 5: A lot of wanting to get this race the hell over with. Somewhere in lap 4 I caught both of the women that had passed me in laps 2 and 3. One looked like she ran out of gas after attacking most of the third lap and the second dropped her chain on the penultimate time up the run-up. She probably would have won the race if not for that mechanical. She looked a helluva a lot stronger than I felt.

The only thing did feel good about was that I was riding clean and, although was slower through the barriers that I would have liked, technique was decent. Here is a link to a barrier shot from Oregon Cycling Action. I still can't remount correctly in a race, but I can't say that I really care. It'll come in time. And maybe with some more heckling from...well, they know who they are.

(Photo: Tim Schalberger)

After the bell lap rung, we rode into some flat switchbacks and I could see the gap on who was chasing me . Figured that if I could just stay upright and keep moving forward, I would stay in front. Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully. I was JUST. SO. FUCKING. HOT.

Longest lap of a life full of long laps. I took the stairs on the run-up with the grace of a large jungle mammal and banged both of my shins. Hit my back tire on all of the barriers. Accidentally spit on a spectator when the wind picked up at an inopportune moment.

Never been so glad to finish a race, ever.

(Photo: Tim Schalberger)

My first ever win on a bicycle was the Icebreaker Crit in April. That win was exhilarating and made me want to race my bike FOREVER. This win was excruciating and made me want to throw myself in front of a slow moving train and pour Aardvark sauce in my eyes. As I slowly rolled back to the team tent, three things were going through my head:

(1) Do not pass out or throw up in front of all of these people.

(2) Why the fuck do I so this to myself?! Correction, pay MONEY to do this to myself?!

(3) Shirt. Off. Now.

Then I sat down, put my head between my knees and tried not to cry. That is how bad I felt. And how relieved I was that I hadn't quit.


It feels sort of "off" to be writing such a bitchy, negative race report about winning a race. Some folks never get to win a race, and I've been blessed to win several this year.

But, then again, I suppose that every racer knows what it feels like to have your body revolt and to not have any idea how to deal with it.

All in all, once I had cooled off enough for a proper perspective check, it was a good day. My FT placed in the Top 10 of the beginner race, Beth was dominating her race until a last lap flat, our junior racer cleaned up his field and German went 2/2 on races where he crashes spectacularly. There were post-race beers and black bean burgers. And I finally got decent post-race sleep, thanks to REM caps, compression socks and some post-race TLC.

Cross Crusade starts in T-Minus six days. My guess is that the B field will top 50 riders, and everyone will be fighting for call-up points for the rest of the series. Let the mayhem begin.


Cramps said...

This is just a guess, but the booze might have something to do with the temperature regulation, Sippy;-)

Lindsay said...

Yah, yah, yah. You can have your theories.

I have problems w/o the booze consumption, but I'm sure that didn't help matters this time around.