Two days after the State Cyclocross Championships and I still can't believe it all happened the way it did. Sitting with my hubby, recapping the races, I feel like an enthused teenager running my mouth at full speed....wow, what a day.
Not only was this year's course the coolest I've seen to date (only my third appearance, but darn awesome!), but it was as fast and furious as anticipated. Being a regular solo rider somewhere on the average course in a Cat 4 women's race, I was skeptical of course-designer, Hollywood's, idea of sprint finishes and fast races. Our races are usually so blown apart after the first lap, I expected nothing more than crossing the line solo somewhere in the pack.
Pulling up to the starting line, I was ecstatic to see some 20 women toe the line for a shot at the title. Excited as I was, I was right on top of it as the whistle blew, making my way into the lead with the Hollywood Hole-shot. Still a pup, I couldn't hold the tempo forever and slowed the pace before we hit the volleyball court. With an attack, and putting my weight on the rear wheel, I road the sandpit with a certain level of ease, but was sadly disappointed when 3 riders ran through the sand and passed me by. Having moved from 1st to 4th in a matter of feet, the chase began. Jeanette was gone (as always), and Emily M. wasn't far behind. Luckily Megan from Grumpy's was within my sights and set a great pace. I chased after my rabbit, salivating, only to catch her at the bottom of the stair case. Whether it was her intention or not, she blocked my attack on the stairs for 2/3rds of the way, until the trees backed off enough for me to come around on the side and get in front of her at the top. I held the leads until we hit the sand again, then watched her pass me by as I took a hand-up.
Again, I was in pursuit, but this time it didn't take so long to catch her. I made it a fast attack and tried to never look back. I knew she was right on me, so I rode through the pain and fatigue that churned my stomach and screamed for me to give up. Third place...third pace...just keep going.....
Into the third and final lap of the 2+ mile course, I found her....Emily...in yellow....in second place.....right there in front of me. I put the hammer down and dropped it another gear. This time through the sand I got stalled out at the end and thought the day was done, sadly admitting to Jay I was blown. But I made it over the barriers and was headed back around the pond. My kid bro was right in front of me, so I locked him in my sights and regulated my breathing. Though he offered to let me by, I rode his wheel into the headwind for some much needed respite before my final sprint up the stairs. (thanks Zach! You're the best!) I came around him and a corner, only to see my next rabbit just ahead. With everything I could muster, I attacked, closing the gap within seconds and catching her before the base of the stair.
Something about that final climb slowed me drastically, and she slipped ahead of me at the top. Feverishly, I mounted my steed, and drove that dérailleur as far as it could go as I sprinted down the fast descent, eyes bouncing inside my skull as I tried to focus on her yellow jersey. I closed the gap yet again, but was thrown off by the contents of my stomach as they forced their way through my clenched jaw. Luckily, my legs didn't notice the commotion and kept up the pace. With a lot of pavement ahead of me, and the acid burning my throat, I knew what I had to do. I dug deep into my road miles, tucked into a TT position, and used everything I had to keep the attack up for the last mile.
We came around the berm after the pit, and up the slow burner, where she started to gap me off. She was cruising down the middle of the path, with a left hand turn up ahead....so for one last time, I dropped the gear again and went for it. I sprinted past her to take the lead position into the turn, and riding at the threshold on the slippery crescent. We rounded the hockey rink and I knew she was still there - I couldn't hear anything except my warm up music in my head - no breathing, no pedaling, no screams or cheers. Around the final turn I was out of my saddle and cranking out every last ounce of energy I had. And I did it!
I beat her to the line!!! I crossed the line in 2nd place, immediately to find the waiting arms of my husband as I collapsed with fatigue and began dry heaving uncontrollably. I rushed to the men's room immediately so not to puke in front of everyone (the women's room had a line - go figure)....somehow the boys didn't get stage fright too bad as I sat on the floor w/ my back to the urinal, vomiting in the garbage can. What can I say? I rode out of my mind.Once recovered, I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day (and still am, may I say). Not only did I finish second, but it was against a great group of wonderful women! I somehow was able to hold off gals like Emily and Kris B. that have been miles ahead of me all year. I feel so honored to have had such a wonderful race, and such great people to race against all year....you have helped me so much! I've pushed so hard this year to get better thanks to gals like you. And especially thanks to my super duper husband extraordinare, Hwood, teaching me the skills to do it, and supporting me through each emotional high or low while I'm out there suffering...Thanks so much, Babe!
Of course, all the races were awesome, and the finishes exciting, but this one will stay in my memory forever. And, as always, there was tons of fun and folly happening on the stair case during the A race. Thanks to Hollywood, Bill O., Silver Cycling and Kenwood for putting on yet another Major Wood Rager! Can't wait to see how you up the ante next year! Great job everyone that raced or volunteered - we couldn't have had such a great time w/o ya!
Already looking forward to '09,