Well, this weekend was quite the tale of night and day differences in racing for me.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Lincoln CX race holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first foray into organized bicycle racing of any sort two years ago. (See video of me with fixed gear “racing” ‘cross in 2009.)
Well, throughout last week I was fighting off either some food poisoning or, more likely, a gastrointestinal virus brought to work by a co-worker silly enough to have young children at home. Nasty little buggers! I wasn’t feeling all that well all week, and then Thursday night I really came down with it. I got up to shower Friday morning and realized going to work wasn’t going to be possible. Great. Staying in bed all day and not eating is a superb way to prepare for a demanding weekend of racing, right?
Ryan was sweet enough to go pre-ride the course Friday afternoon, camera in tow, to take some video for me. Even though I couldn’t really get a sense of the course, I could see that it was going to be really hilly, with lots of fun ups and downs. Not a course to get bored on.
Got up Saturday morning, forced down a bowl of plain rice, a banana, and a little applesauce with some Good Belly probiotic juice and headed out to Pioneers Park, prepared for cold. And thankfully so, because the temperature dropped about 15 degrees in just as many minutes. Stiff North wind, cloudy skies, and a little drizzle and it really felt like winter.
I needed a decent race to solidify my win in the Midwest CX Stitch series, and with 2nd place Julie Higgins coming up from KC, I had to give it the best I could. Double points on the line, and though I hadn’t taken the time to do the math, I knew that if I wasn’t right behind her, I’d be in trouble.
|Day 1, with 24 women lined up to race. Photo: Sydney Brown|
I hardly had energy to do a warm-up, so I just spun my legs for a little bit. Heading to the line, I did get a little boost of energy seeing 23 other women standing there shivering, too! All the work put in to making the series a reality, bringing in racers from out of town and convincing local ladies to take the line for the first time worked, and we rivaled the biggest field of the day. (Compare to 7 women in 2010 and a mere 5 in 2009, and this is a pretty amazing accomplishment.)
We started out somewhat slow, and a crash at the start line had lots of us hesitant, I think. Janna took the holeshot, and the front group’s pace was easily too fast for me. I also noticed that I hadn’t checked the saddle height on the demo well enough, and it was about an inch too high. Not so comfy, yet another detail to fall victim to my general ill-feeling. I sat on Julie’s wheel for a bit, then attacked on I think the 2nd lap going up one of the longer inclines.
|Running up Hooligan Hill. Photo: Kyle Hansen|
Much to my surprise, the Hooligan Hill run-up proved to be one of my strengths. Training with my quite heavy bike and then getting to race on a demo that’s about a third of the weight put some spring in my step!
Though I put on a little bit of a gap, by a couple laps later she was on me again, and when she launched her counterattack, I was out of gas in the tank.
|Struggling. Photo: Kyle Hansen|
By the 5th lap, I was just doing everything I could not to let anyone else catch me. Any effort I tried to put out, my body had nothing in it to react. I was relying on the flow and momentum of the course to keep me moving, and when I pulled around to the finish on my last lap, the beautiful and ever cheerful Berly Brown was making her way through as well. Suffering the climbs on a singlespeed, I reached out and gave her a push through the finish. (If anyone got a photo of this, please let me know. It was wicked cute.)
Getting warm after the race was nearly impossible, as the wind continued to be fierce. I took cover in the Trek van for awhile and watched the next two races. Then it was time to pack up, clean up, and party! I was starting to feel a little better — most of all, I was hungry again — and we headed to the Hour Lounge for the Midwest CX Stitch awards party.
|Prize table. Amazing, generous donations, particularly from local women!|
A really nice crowd turned out to eat pasta and enjoy some drinks before we dug into giving out series awards. In addition to winners in the Category 3 & Category 4 divisions, we also gave out a Singlespeed series winner. On top of that, we had a Skillz award (for best technical riding) and a Makes CX Look the Most Fun award — and that lovely lady got first pick of the prize pool! For the Lincoln race, we also had a ballot box on Hooligan Hill for the crowd to pick their favorite racer and for best costume. Jen, as Cookie Monster, won that one hands down.
|C is for Cookie Monster the CX racer. Photo: Kyle Hansen|
As if that weren’t enough, there was also a match preme given by Conrad, a Lanterne Rouge preme sponsored by Lincoln Hustle, and a Grindcore Memorial Dive in Head First award, given to the rider with the least-appropriate bike for cyclocross. And thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, everyone who raced got a chance at the prize table!
|Brunch! So much oatmeal with fixins!|
After a good night’s sleep, I woke up early, a good sign that I was on the mend. My lovely housemate Diane had volunteered to help out with making an oatmeal bar for racers, complete with lots of fancy fixins’, and we headed over to the lovely Bulfinch home for a cozy brunch. Did I mention it was 15 degrees out? Yeah, it was frigid.
Even though I wasn’t quite sure if my stomach was ready for it yet, I needed calories badly, so I went for the oatmeal. Twice. A nice dollop of probiotic-rich yogurt, and I felt a little more ready to conquer the day. I always feel more relaxed the second day of racing, it seems.
The sun was shining, and even if it wasn’t getting that much warmer, at least it felt that way. I packed my new winner’s jersey and headed out to the park.
|Flashing the winner’s jersey. Photo: Sydney Brown|
I was excited to try my hand at this course again. With a heavy emphasis on technical features, it was super fun to ride, and if I was liking it even while feeling crappy, now that I was feeling better it was going to be a blast! Off the line, I was easily in with the front 5 or 6 riders, and as we settled in to position, I was in 7th position. First time up Hooligan Hill, and a bad remount dropped me to 8th. Sandy Collins and Renae Weaver — a woman who has let me know I’ve been making her nervous all year — came by me, and I hopped on her for the next lap. After we came through the start/finish and back onto the grass half a lap later, she told me it was time to go get the next one. I pulled ahead and found myself chasing Aubrey Dock. She looked tired, and after coming around her, I caught a glimpse of the next rider…5th position was being held down by none other than Janna Vavra. And she wasn’t that far ahead!
|Feeling pretty good in the cold, PINK FAST! Photo: Kyle Hansen|
Slowly but surely, I pulled up to her until I was right on her wheel. Everybody we passed was cheering us both on, and for about two laps, I held steady. Janna’s a really skilled rider and experienced racer, and I was reading her for the places I might have an opportunity to attack.
And at some point, she knew it, and really gave it the gas. As we came off of the climbs and into the Pinewood Bowl section the last time, she motored off, and I couldn’t catch her on the way down and through the finish. Afterward, Janna said she just couldn’t let it happen…yet! Still, finishing 6th in a pretty stacked Open field felt darn good. It was exciting just to be that competitive with that level of racers.
After the women’s race, it was time to do it up, Hooligan Hill style. The women on the Hill came up with a new game, the DK’d Willies came to play again, and Lincoln rocked. Keith Walberg captured it best.
All in all, it has been a fantastic season of racing. This weekend marked my 17th and 18th CX races since the first of October, and with three more at Jingle Cross on the horizon this weekend, I’m pretty tired and ready to be home and knitting for a while. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. Traveling with my teammates from Sheclismo — and with my adoptive team the Trek Midwest CX squad — has been a blast, and I’ve gained so much valuable experience and knowledge, not to mention made new friends. ‘Cross is awesome.
|Sheclismo CX ambassadors, Elisabeth Grindcore, Berly Brown, and Syd Vicious. Photo: Nancy Brown|