When we had to be back in Jefferson City early for Bob to get to work, I was actually a little excited at the thought of racing, but a full night's rain put a damper on my race spirits. All that rain meant that the course was sure to be soaked, and I was leery of riding in the mud. "If it rained in St. Louis anything like it did here," Bob pointed out, "that course is going to be a muddy mess..."
"I know..." I groaned, thinking that was a good reason to go straight home, but then Bob continued, "...and you'll regret missing that."
I was unconvinced, but I couldn't let go of the idea of racing. In the end, despite some good reasons not to enter (I raced 10 hours the day before, I suck at cyclocross), the deciding factor was this: I wasn't too tired or sore to race; I was scared of the mud. That's a wimpy reason to go home, so I let the car carry me to Queeny Park.
Susan was one of the first people I saw, and she told me that Kristen was already out pre-riding the course. Having some familiar faces around made me feel better, and I registered before I could change my mind. I was afraid if I waited til after riding the course I'd chicken out, but the preride itself wasn't bad. Yes, the course had some seriously muddy areas, but I got through them ok. In fact, despite the one steep run-up hill, I felt much better after my practice lap than I had the week before at Gordon Moore. I wouldn't say I felt confident, but the pre-race nausea subsided. I had a good time hanging out and talking before the race, and it was great to see Kelly, who I haven't seen since last November's mountain bike weekend.
|This stretch is just past the above picture. And by the time I was here, everyone else was entering the wooded area.|
|Turning to the muddy section|
|It was muddier than it looks here. Also, the course was somewhat less sloppy the longer the day went on.|
|The course comes from the right in the picture, towards the camera.|
|I think this was the second or third lap, but I'm sure I looked that bad on the first, too. (Photo credit: Kelly Patty)|
|Going towards the orange...through more mud...|
|And then up a gentle uphill and across the field,|
|For me, this was the sketchiest section of the course. (Photo credit: Mike Dawson)|
|Riders come from the top of the picture...|
|...around this turn to the right..|
|Back out towards the pavement...|
That was pretty much the end of the mud for that lap. The trail curved around past the lake (a real lake) and then up a paved walkway.
|Coming out of the wooded area (on the left) and towards the pavement|
|One more muddy section|
|It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but you come in near the top middle then curve around before riding down where the two closest riders are...from there sweeping towards the parking lot.|
Once up the hill, there were a couple field switchbacks and then a gentle downhill that curved into the parking lot...
|Turn coming into the parking lot.|
|I love this picture, which was taken about where the two riders in the above picture are. I look much more focused than terrified. :D (Photo credit: Steph Nadeau)|
...where I got a nasty surprise...
|Hill x 2|
|Up on the right, down in the middle, and back up on the left. Not cool.|
|The lady with the dog was hilarious. I'm sure she had no voice left by the end of the day. Here they're giving beer handups.|
|The course curves back and forth up the incline, then down pavement and more or less back to the start.|
And yeah...last place. 13th out of 13. I'd like to tell you I'd have done better on fresh legs, but I don't think that's true. It was a skill and ability deficit rather than tired legs. I got a crappy start, I was slow on hills and getting on and off my bike, and I haven't yet found that spot where I'm comfortable really pushing myself on the bike. Too much la-di-da endurance-pace riding (well, not enough of that, either) rather than any kind of intervals or hill work.
None of this is to say that I'm upset about coming in last. I'd like to be the kind of person who can jump into any kind of race and kick ass, but the fact is that I'm not. And that's ok. For now it's enough to be the kind of person who will jump into a race and see what happens (and what'll happen at the next one :D).