First off what is up with the weather? With plenty of sun and dry ground you would think that racing would be great...sure. But no, this race hurt. It was quite a difficult race.
Astoria was a double race weekend, just not for me. I could only race Saturday. I had to drive to meet the family in Black Butte later Saturday night. Actually, after riding on Saturday my back thanks me for having to other things going on.
I arrived at the Clatsop Fairgrounds with enough time to fully check out the course, but without a chance to ride it because of the races going on prior to mine. It would have been nice to know from the beginning that one could really just blast down that and the other long downhill runs. Once down in the meadow I learned that almost anywhere that there was grass there would soon be pain...in my back. Geesh, the course was brutal. There were a couple of good hill climbs as well. Because of these two course characteristics I was ready to be done after the third lap. Unfortunately after the third lap, the lap card at the finish line showed I had another 3 laps to go. Ugh.
At that point I seriously wondered why I was there. I thought "Why to I do this to myself?" Is my memory so short that I constantly forget how much it sucks during the cross race? I remember just hurting so freaking much. My back was dying. My legs were rubber. I was a little pukey once. Later in the race my right calf seized up (not enough water--totally my bad). And my handling skills were not so great at that point either.
During the race I was still getting the hang of the Fango tires. I wasn't able to lean on them as much as I can when using the Flexus tires on the packed dirt or asphalt. But on grass, and in the occasional soft turn they were rad. It just took me about 3 laps to figure out where I could turn hard and trust them. Not that I was handling the bike tons better during laps 4 through 6--I was often just trying to keep pedalling--but my confidence was better.
Somewhere around the middle of the race I passed a rider from Portland Velo. I don't know his name. The rest of the race was just about trying to keep him from re-passing me. I didn't know how I was doing in relation to everyone else. I didn't care, I just wanted to be done and beat that guy.
Oddly for all of the 5th lap I felt pretty good, except for climbing out of the meadow. That sucked every time. Oh, and the Masters of Hell (the Crusade organizers) there decided to toss a barrier in right in the middle of the uphill out of the meadow. It was a total momentum killer. At least I think I you could call what I had before the barrier, momentum. Anyway, what the heck was that about? Oh yeah, I forgot, they like to make us suffer.
On the 6th lap I found that I was about to get passed on the longer climb up the back slope of the fairgrounds. I managed to have the better line and then pedalled just hard enough to get to the downhill without getting passed. Those downhills were great. No brakes. Just let the bike fly down the hills. At that speed even the crappy bumpy grass sections just kinda smooth themselves out. I carried pretty good speed through the rest of the course and managed to keep some guy behind me at the finish--not the Portland Velo guy. The PV guy was back one more spot. I don't know what the guy that almost passed me looked like, I just heard and felt him on my back tire.
That course put the hurt on everyone. So while I am disappointed I didn't finish higher, I can't say that the course singled me out over anyone else. Really, my main excuse for not finishing in the top 1/4 again is that I am still heavier than I should be and thus I use up too much of what power I have hauling too much extra fat up those hills. In order to do well there (other than losing more weight) I would have needed a little help--as in some rain. If the conditions had been a little more damp it would have smoothed out the course. If it had been swampy that would have slowed everyone down and it would have rewarded those bold enough to open it up a bit on the descents.
I finished 29th out of 61 finishers. Total racers were 63 for my race. 2 of them DNF'd--lucky guys...
[THIS IS WHERE I START TO MEANDER--BEWARE!!! RACE REPORT OVER]
I talked to a couple of guys that raced Sunday instead of Saturday there. All of them said it was miserable as well. One said it was the hardest thing he had done in his life. What is up with that? Why do we do this? Why is that at some point in every race I curse myself for torturing myself for 45+ minutes? You would think I/we would learn. It is one thing if you are winning, but for those that are in the pack or at the back, WHY?
It is the same thing every race. I find that I start getting anxious the morning of the race (luckily not so much the night before so I am able to sleep). This anxious feeling builds until the last couple of minutes before the race. Those are the worst. That is when I come face to face with the fact that hell awaits me and that it is too late to do anything about it. I am committed at that point even with the knowledge that this is going to hurt. It is like standing there knowing the bully is going to punch you in the playground, but you don't run away. You take it standing up.
The race starts and I forget about the inevitable pain for a lap or two as I concentrate on getting the course lines down in my head and avoiding pile-ups (some poor sap ran right into the side of the entrance to the passageway that we passed through in the horse stalls--Ouch! Others lost it on the asphalt on the first lap). Then around midway the pain starts to hit (Keep in mind that it hits even though I do a preemptive Ibuprofen dosage before the race). Yeah, that is when I have to overcome myself and my own weakness. Sometimes I do better than at other times. Cross racing just really hurts and there is nothing to do other than stand up and pedal through it even when I wonder if I have the strength to get off the dang saddle.
Then there is almost always a lap (or sometimes less) of relief. I don't know why this happens after the mid-race misery, but the only time that it didn't in my memory was at Alpenrose this year (I was too banged up and frustrated to ever get to the sweet spot).
After this brief respite comes the final stage where I just want the race to be done, but I want to finish strong. The end of the race I generally give it everything I have left to either pass someone else or to keep from getting passed by one more rider. At times my peripheral vision has gone a bit blurry or I have almost hurled on myself from the effort sometimes at this stage of the race. Sometimes my heart feels like it will leap out of my chest. Then it is over and I find myself leaning on my bike.
I doubt I am in the minority in this regard. I think most of us out there go to a point of exertion during these short races well beyond what the majority of the population has ever done (not including mothers--that is just nuts, giving birth). That goes for whether you are racing as a beginner or an "A". We suffer. And we do it almost weekly for about 2 or 3 months straight. Some who haven't raced think we are slightly off when they read or see pictures.
Are we stupid? Well, maybe but that fact has little to do with why were are out there. No, we suffer because we can. Because it makes us better. It may for some of us make up for the stupid stuff that we have to go through during the week. For me, it gives me a place to lodge the frustration that has resulted from still not being able to find a position with any entity that will allow me to practice law. Passed the bar exam last year but still not practicing, damn it. That some of that mental anxiety, frustration and depression has been used for fuel in training and racing. I am the fastest I have ever been. And I will get faster. I am the thinnest I have been since the the mid 1990's. And I will get thinner because it will make me better/faster.
Bring it on. I will suffer. And I will smile when I am done. No matter how much it sucks and no matter how much I question my sanity during the heat of the battle it is the one area of my life that I have some control. I choose this. I choose to be there. I choose to suffer. I choose to push through what I think is possible, albeit many times I don't seem to be getting through that barrier. But I think that every time I am out there I am taking steps to become what I want to be. Yes, I compare myself to others by way of where I place in the race. But I don't go out there so much to beat anyone in particular but to beat my results last year or last month or last week. I know I can be better, even if at times I just feel so damn pathetic and weak. Yeah, I still suck. Mid pack Master C's...big whoop. I have a bike that is way better than my abilities warrant. But I will continue to get better. That has been my track record over the past few years...continual improvement...even if it seems like it is at glacial pace sometimes.
Cyclocross has become a refiners fire for me. Once I do actually get to practice law I know that my racing will benefit me there too. I can push through stuff that sucks. I can push my body when it says/screams "NO!" I can do that in law too when I get the chance.
Barton Park next week. See you there.