Thursday, September 22, 2011

Into the Fog: the start of a new Cyclocross Season

New England is a region marked by its distinctive seasons. The transition from summer to autumn is apparent to me in the morning. Rather than the bright morning dew of August, after Labor Day the early hours are often covered by fog, even when the rest of the day is sunny. Each day as I drove to the race this weekend, a thick layer of mist hung over the fields and road.

Mentally I was just as clouded as the fog draped hills. The start of any race season brings some doubts: Have I trained enough? Are the fast guys still fast? Have my rivals gotten faster? Who has moved into my race category? I had more doubts than usual due to my limited racing this summer. To compound those concerns, I also had the first of the school year family head cold. I was so congested I could barely talk, much less race.

Saturday I took a slow wheezing preview lap, then another. I went to the trainer for forms sake. Just getting up to tempo effort was a chore. I thought that finishing a single lap in the race would be a minor miracle. But being the stuborn idiot I am, I lined up anyway.

And then a minor miracle did happen, I managed to avoid the first lap crash at 500m off the line. I slotted into the back of the bunch and just kept pedaling. By the end of the first lap I was catching guys. By the end of the second lap I was passing guys. Frank McCormack bolted past me going up the long hill. I thought about following his wheel, but realized I would collapse doing so. I just kept pedaling anyway. With two to go I was battling with Nat McHugh and a Quad Cycles racer. The Quad racer gapped me on the back side of the course and Nate came around to chase. Coming into the long hill climb on the last lap I attacked Nate and pressed hard. I managed to put in enough distance to keep him off my wheel the rest of the lap. I did not gain enough ground on the Quad racer to make a sprint at the line.

So I finished, and even equalled my Race Predictor position. It wasn't pretty, but it was a result.

Sunday, I made the silly mistake of expecting a better race result. Instead with two laps to go, and in position to make a run on Verge Points, I endo'd on the gravel fill. A twisted shifter, chain wrapped around the crankarm, and a cocked seat made certain that I would have a long slow ride to the pit. That put me 30 seconds behind GeWillickers. I rode an unenthusiastic last lap, and managed to come across 10 seconds before getting lapped. At least I had the legs to race two days in a row despite a raging head cold, so there's that.

The fog of race doubt is starting to lift.

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