Wednesday, November 24, 2010

...the one where I finally won...

Some people win their first cross race.  Others win sometime in their first season.  Others never win.  That wasn't me, though.  I didn't start racing cross with a couple seasons of road racing or triathlon fitness under my belt.  And half a mountain bike race season didn't really count.   My first year I got lapped at nearly every race.  I've been on the podium and in the front of the field more times than I care to count this year and last without sealing the deal.  I raced 42 cross races in three seasons before this weekend.

I stayed home to race locally and help out at Schooley Mill and Rockburn (aka the HoCoCx2x).  It's a Cat 3 field only, but I hadn't treated the last couple MABRA races as priorities and mechanical'd at one of them, so I really didn't know where my legs would be against the field.  But as it turned out, it would be the weekend my legs and head came together to put me (and the season) where I wanted.

Saturday - Schooley Mill

An early start, I spent most of the morning at registration or taking podium pics and handing out prizes, really trying to be ass-in-chair-with-legs-up whenever possible.  Shea finished his race and took over the prize-doling tasks and I got into my normal pre-race routine.  I didn't love the power-friendly course on my pre-rides.  I wanted more turns, something technical to give my handling skills an advantage.  My efforts Friday during setup to encourage more turns had added a few, but not enough. Bernie came for a visit as I was finishing my trainer warmup and offered to take my Bianchi to the pits.  Karl pinned my number on for me.  Someone showed up at the start line to take my jacket.

In a field of only 10, I had a front row start and wanted the first lap prime for the leader of our race - a t-shirt from friend and team sponsor Jason at Woof Cycling.  We were off.  I had the start I wanted and the holeshot onto the grass.  The field stayed together through the first chicanes and off cambers until we hit the first climb.  I punched it and got a bit of a gap.  By the time we hit the barriers, the gap had grown to about 5 seconds over current series leader Katy.  I knew she was probably the one to watch for - we've gone back and forth the few times we've race together this year.  I focused on a smooth set of barriers, egged on by the announcer, Chris Mayhew, who did quite a lot of coaching my remounts in August at cross camp.  It sounded like the entire Kelly team was in the pits nearby.

Past the barriers, through some turns, then onto doubletrack.  An easy place to slack off and lose time - no spectators were out there yelling at me to dig deep.  But, my head was in a great place.  I was focused on one thing - going as fast as I could and still racing a technically perfect (or at least, passable) race.  Big ring - on more than one lap I was near the top of my cassette.

An S-curve off camber section and then I was already down by the pond, trying not to notice Galen and his camera, who I have a habit of crashing in front of.   I came through after the first lap (getting the prime!) with a sickening realization - I had a 10 second gap on the field that I wanted to hold and the lap cards went up indicating I had another 4 laps to go.  In a season where many of our races have gotten cut short (I've raced as little as 32 minutes for a "40 minute race"), I was gonna be out there for at least 46.  That's nearly 50% longer for you math geeks.

Surprisingly, I settled into my pace and was loving the turns at speed.  I wasn't that much slower than my first lap and was a little faster than those behind me.  I heard my name and gap times shouted all over the course.  At the bottom of the hill, the C3 gang reminded me to power up it.  I reminded myself that I can rest on Monday.  Coach Rodger urged me through some turns and into the big ring on the doubletrack.  I could see Katy, but I could see she was pretty much in the same place every lap.  Every time I hit the first S turn, she was heading up the little steep hill.  Every time by the horse jumps she was rounding left as I stood to climb.  On the last lap she closed a bit, but I held on for my first cross win.  Even without where I placed, it was one of my best races of the year.

I rolled through the finish (with one hand off the bars - didn't trust myself for both and clearly hadn't practiced!), about to be corraled by my own husband to the podium.  Ken (another LSVer) who was marshalling said, "That's a hard way to win a race."  Well, I wouldn't know as that's the only way I've done it.

I gave Shea, Rodger and a couple others hugs, then started to cramp.  Spinning over behind the building, I nearly started to cry.  Here's the thing, yeah, I am more than psyched that I met a goal I worked so hard for.  But it was even better to do it in front of the hometown crowd - the guys who taught me the love of this crazy sport.  Where, literally, nearly everyone knew my name.

After all the congrats'ing, Bill from In The Crosshairs interviewed me.  See it here.  Maybe I should always eat donut holes.  For some reason, other pics from the race are sorta sparse.

About 4 hours later doubt set it.  Could I do it again? Would I be able to muster up the mental intensity to be that hungry again?  Two days in a row?

... to be continued...

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