today's race was the kentucky state cyclocross championships. it was held at our beloved local 'cross course; an old defunct golf course that has twice also been the site of the usgp. we pre-rode the course last night - thinking, surely it wouldn't be the exact course we ride all the time. but we were wrong. it was practically - with a few cool exceptions, the exact course we ride all the time. and for this, i loved it. and so during our pre-ride yesterday, with the late afternoon fall sun shining just so perfectly and happy, it was all swoopy and zen. there were no crazy jacked up 180's into uphills or downhills; and i had already practiced all the turns and sand pits and run ups until they were embedded in my brain. i've been practicing for the last 3 months out there. i left the course yesterday happy and confident. i thought, this could be another harbin park.
and then it rained.
and a really muddy course was one thing i had never practiced. and unfortunately, as much as i try to convince myself otherwise, mud does not equal happy and zen. so the race starts on a big wide open expanse of grass and goes into one of those turns i have embedded in my brain. and as i head into the turn and see the cluster of girls on the muddy downhill turn in front of me, some on their bikes & some off, or trying to stay on - i look ahead to see one friend hop off her bike, shoulder it and run. and i think this looks like a splendid idea. so i do it too. and on other spots, where i see people dab their foot to get around a muddy turn. i think this too, looks like a splendid idea. so i do it too. and make it around the turn. these moments, while fleeting - feel good and sorta smart.
there were, however, plenty of places i did not quite make it through. i got tangled up in the course tape more than once. and i bit it in the sandtrap more than once. i did a cool back wheel skid out thing and saved it (by continuing to pedal through it - imagine that); which felt momentarily awesome. until i had to go down the scary muddy hill onto pavement where i bit it again.
for the most part, i felt good and strong the whole time but was a bundle of frustration and nerves and tried to get over my stifling and irrational muddy fears and maneuver my way through the course. and once again, stoopidly, i wrote the race off - thinking i was not cut out for cross and i didn't like the mud. usually, my husband is on the sidelines cheering for me and can see when my head is in a bad self-defeating place. he usually knows exactly what to yell to get me out of it. or, i'll have teammates on the sidelines yelling for the love of god woman pedal your bike! it's like that perfect slap in the face snap out of it sort of thing that i sometimes need. but the men were racing at the same time i was and all i got from my husband (on his way to third place i might add!) was a "hey baby" as we did the run up together. which i have to say, was sorta fun.
i really, really wanted to quit. but i didn't quit. i just kept going. cause there were other people out there cheering. keeping me going. and taking cool pictures.
and then, thankfully. it was over.
and then i rode over to my husband and then, in front of friends, and their small children - who came out into the cold and wet and mud bearing homemade banana chocolate chip muffins, i do believe a few expletives came flying out about how much i hated the course and how badly i wanted to quit. very bad form indeed. next time, i'll keep my mouth shut and leave my rant here so people have a choice of whether or not they want to 'hear' it.
but as soon as i was dressed and warm, and had coaxed my girls out of the warm and toasty airstream to go watch another race, and my husband gave me a big proud hug over the fact that i did that muddy, hard race; i was in love with cyclocross again. as always - when its' over.
i'll also digress here for a moment to also explain that our entire team is rolling in brand-spanking new kits. everything about the kit is new - the colors, the sponsors - everything. and there was a whole slew of us racing. it was so fun to see the sea of blue riders all over the course. the blue and orange makes it easy to see everyone when spectating and makes it easy to determine who you should pull over to the side a bit for to let lapping teammates in the men's race pass you. there was definitely a fun buzz of excitement over rolling out the new kits at this race.
as muddy and as difficult as the course was, and as much as i hated it and wanted to quit; i didn't - and so for that i am very happy. i think back on the insanity of it all and cannot actually believe i took part in the madness and raced that muddy race. and now that its' over, i'm pleased as punch that i stuck with it, and am trying to forget the david millar type moment of a post race rant and can only hope those that were around me can do the same.
so then, race and rant over - i either cheered racers on or hung out with teammates by the airstream and insisted that they work harder to kill the keg of hell for certain that we have been taking everywhere in a weird, have-keg-will-travel way; and i make another pot of coffee on the airstream and set out the banana chocolate chip muffins and straighten things up a bit and realize that maybe i should feed the kids lunch. so, as we head to the car to go get some happy meals - a teammate points to me and says they want me on the podium.
and i look behind me, because surely - he's not pointing at me. they cannot need me for the podium. and i point to myself and say me? they want me?
yes. you. go.
so, as i head to the podium, i try to think of what on earth they need me for. do they need help passing out medals to the cool girls? do they need me to bring them coffee? is someone contesting last place?
and i get to the podium and see the first, second and third place masters' girls with their snazzy medals and i think well. this is a joke. i am not needed here. and race promoter guy sees me and says, good, you're here.
and i say, why? he says cause its the kentucky state championships. and i am a kentucky resident. but i still don't get it. he says you won something. and i say me? what did i win? he gives me a bronze medal and tells me to get up on the podium.
well, look at me. on the podium. apparently, the fact that i was the third kentucky resident to finish my race today qualifies me for the podium. sweet. i'll take it. my first actual bike podium ever.
so i got on the podium and raised my hand with the first place girl (second place girl was absent) and it felt fairly snazzy and fun. and i forgot about how i hate the mud and how i wanted to sell my bike on ebay during that second lap. i forgot about how i might not be cut out for this on that third lap and i resolved to get on a mountain bike like everyone says i need to do to get more comfortable with the handling stuff.
the fact that i got the bronze medal mostly for just showing up today and being the third masters' woman from kentucky to finish is not lost on me. but i got on the podium and it was fun & i'll totally take the tiny victories where i can get 'em. even if it was really a victory of residency.
i may have had a bit of a love hate thing with my first season of cyclocross, but finishing my first cross season on the podium was fun and sorta makes up for a whole bunch.
and makes me think i'll do it all again next year. only better. and not just cause i live here.