Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Cyclosnot": or, "small fish, big pond"..

OK ok, I finally did it: I spectated at the first (bitterly cold) day of the Whitmores supercross cup at SYS in Southampton, and raced on the second..Inspired by the professional CX racing women staying with Dennis and I, I trundled my bike to the start line and waited for a call up.. and waited, and waited, until last place.. Having not raced in 4 years in this dicipline, I have earned absolutely no UCI points, the requisite for a good starting position, so was at the very back of a national level, high calibre line-up with 10 seconds to go..
I had no idea that I would be so nervous with my first 'cross race this season (and coming in so late, possibly the last one of 2008). I had risen with the girls at 7am, had coffee, porridge, read the paper, stretched, donned my skinsuit and gone to watch valiant Dennis battle with himself in his race.. really, I mean battle, and I also mean with himself.. Neither of us have raced or trained at the super-threshold intensity needed to race well, so he rode the course in his own silent world of pain, as we screamed at him and rang cowbells in his ears as he rode and ran over obstacles, on the run-ups, through the corners, onto the asphalt, right to the finish line. All the while, I was counting the minutes to my own race, running to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so, and feeling the day pass in ultra-slow motion as I took a warm-up lap before the final call to line-up.
Literally shaking on the start-line, and not from the cold, from pure adrenaline and fear-aline in my veins, I knew it could only get better once I started. How wrong I was...
The gun, yes a gun, went off, and so did we, a gang of women powering off the asphalt, onto the grass and into the woods. The 3k circuit crossed sand, 2 kneecap high wooden barriers, wooded singletrack, more sand, lumpy hard-pack grass, off-camber crazy uphill and downhill sections, then more of the same... for 45 minutes, at full belt.
Foaming snot and lung-rasping aside, I was able to hear the announcer throughout the race, giving a blow-by-blow account of the race, which was just as well, since I couldn't see a thing from my position at the back of the field..I cheered my new Cx buddies {Amy Dombrowski (4th), Kathy Sherwin, ?15th and my old friend Anna Milkowski 20th??} on while I suffered in my secret world of pain , and wished Anna good legs as she blew past me on a straight section of grass. As I crossed the line on the final lap, I rolled to a stop by Dennis and a few of my local friends / fans (!) and wondered out loud, what the h*** was I thinking, to jump into CX racing again..
As my heartrate settled, and blood started to flow into my peripheries again, I was suffused with a warm glow of achievement.. Jen (http://www.jayasports.com/) has been doing wonders helping me prepare for long distance MTB racing this year, but we had barely even spoken seriously about CX until last week. Since taking a break from this dicipline, to train for 1/2 IM and MTB racing, I have been reluctant to return to my most favourite cycling sport, weirdly procrastinating from year to year. On the start line, I was fully aware of the main reason for my hesitation in returning to the skinsuit and the narrow knobby tyres, I was dreading the reality check, the drop to back of the pack, the anhillation that I was to suffer on the return to racing with the "big girls" of the sport. Seeing the emotional rollercoaster that my racing girlfriends were going through, hearing their stories of the season to date, Nationals, plans for possible World Championship selection, I was inspired to put my ego and fears aside, and race for the pure joy of it..
I can honestly say, at no time during the race was I enjoying it, (at one point, hoping for a flat so I could drop out!) but as anyone racing CX knows, this feeling ensures that there is nothing more in the tank, that I had pulled it all out for the race, even just this one race. That feeling brings with it the true enjoyment of racing. I am hooked again, making solid plans with Jen for the 2009 Cx season. Finally, having suffered a solid trouncing at the hands of the best in the nation, I am ready to suffer some more, this time, in happy anticipation of the line up in the cold and the wind..

1 comment:

Ian said...

Hi Sinead,

Sorry we missed you. My wife and I are in the background of the picture of you riding at the top of the hill. Left shortly after. We have gone out the last few years to watch but haven't ridden. This year was by far the coldest but had the fewest crashes.