The cyclocross race at Baker Orchard was our big kick-off to the season...finally! Yes, we did a couple of the FarmDog Time Trials and the Pre-Fat, but this was the first real UCI race this year with the peeps we're so used to racin' against, and it was awesome!
Not only is that one of my favorite courses on the calendar, but we made a weekend of it, too. To start, we closed up the shop early on Friday afternoon and headed to Greg & Jodie's house for dinner and a Friday night high school football game under the lights. We only made it through 2nd & 3rd Qtrs and half-time before the evening chill lead us back to the car and back to the warmth of G&J's home. We closed out the evening with wine and good company, before falling asleep in the warm grasp of my husband.
Come morning, the usual race jitters met me at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and nervous stomach eyeing up Greg's blueberry pancakes. We downed our food and loaded up the car for our first race of the year. Unfortunately, it was friggin' cold and our absence from the previous races kept the Belgian-Hard-Man strength in hibernation as we donned arm warmers and leg warmers to keep warm.
The size of the women's field was impressive with 15+ strong ladies towing the line. I was on my sexy new single speed in a desperate attempt to accelerate my 'spring' training, and we were ready for the challenge. As the whistle blew and we took our first charge for the front, I saw a handful of colors tangle as they approached the ground, so I averted my eyes and rode harder.
We got onto the trail and through the start-finish line to 'begin' our race and I found myself on the wheels of my SHEroes with no panic in my lungs. Begin positive affirmations.... Damn, I feel great! Heart rate is low, legs feel fine, breathing is relaxed... stay with them.... I turned over the pedals in time with my competition and held on for a while. Then, the group started to splinter a bit, but I still felt great and kept up my speed. Somewhere around 4 laps to go, I was caught by Abby, a super strong athlete, so I felt no shame as she rode away from me. But I was far from done.
With thre laps to go, I still felt strong, so I pushed myself harder, and began pacing myself with some of the men, using them in the head winds, and trying to push hard into the trails. Then I came up on Abby, and planned out my attack. I used the tail-wind straight-away to help drive me onto her wheel and used the head-wind for recovery, setting up to attack as we got back onto the trail section. I pushed hard into every turn, hoping to create the gap and disappear into the trees and it worked. I felt amazing so I forced myself not to let up. she's coming for you... she won't let you get away
I stayed hard on the gas, surprised to find that I'd hunted down another rabbit in my field in blue.. perfectly timed on the course, so I could repeat my same attack. Charge - recover - attack - run scared. there are half a dozen women chasing you... they can see you... but you can't see them... faster.... master says faster...
With one lap to go, I knew I had to ride hard, but I had to ride smart, only taking risks as I needed to, listening to my breaths and turning off my brain. your legs don't hurt... you are NOT tired... you are NOT done... if you go faster, you can get onto the podium.... pain is temporary
Crossing the line with dirt in my teeth and air struggling it's way down my throat, I kiss my ring to salute my husband waiting on the other side. Thanks for the support, the beautiful bike so reliable and light, for believing in me.... I did it - I rode my way onto the 3's podium at my season debut - bitch, puh-leeze!! Third freakin' place! Jay wrapped his exhausted arms around me and I chewed through each dusty breath and our faces ached with stretched smiles as we relished in our dueling 3rd place finishes... wow..
It was such an amazing finish, but it was the race itself that I loved most, not the podium photo at the end. The entire race was full of enjoyment - it was the pure ecstasy of my favorite bike racing all over again, after a long year off the bike full of no sleep, illness, injury and work... it was like another addition to this chapter of life, and a reminder of the joys in my life. Man, I wish my family could have been there to see me, but I know there's many more to come.
Happy to be back in the saddle... again