I raced cyclocross this past Sunday. Actually, I raced twice. Neither of the results were very memorable. I might even add they were quite forgettable. It’s been a year since my last race and shoulder injury, and going into these races my initial goal was to get a feel for racing again and just gain some confidence . By the end of the first race I was more angry than confident. I had started at the very back of approximately 100 riders and soon enough I had managed to get past a group of riders. Unfortunately, after a miscalculation I went down and was passed by the same group of 10-15 guys. As I wrestled to free myself of plastic route ribbon and recenter my rotated brake lever the last guy in the group passed me and shouted a parting remark, “You’re last now!”
Yep, I was dead last. It’s a crap place to be. It’s lonely. It’s the only place in the race where your thoughts are fast enough to catch up to you and jump into your head. As I was pushing through the initial pain of trying to catch the racers ahead of me, those doubting thoughts began to cloud my race judgement and weight me down like an anchor. Why bother pushing? I’m bringing up the rear. Gasp, I can’t get enough air! Should I just cash it in and hope for the best in the next race? God this really hurts, I must be in worse shape than I thought! Should I just use this race to learn the course? I hope my rear tire pressure is right. And even though I have been training why am I am hurting so much? I wonder what’s for dinner? I need to lose more weight! F-YOU! DOUGHNUTS!!!!!
Yeah, I was hoping to use this first race to get my feet wet and get a feel for “cross” again. What I really felt was my hatred for getting dropped and bringing up the rear! Soon enough it was obvious I was doing too much thinking and not enough pedaling. Cyclocross is a fantastically painful sport- It’s the only sport while you’re gasping for air, feeling leg burning pain, and on the verge of puking, total strangers are handing you gummies, cookies, licorice whips and frothy pale ale. It’s a cruel irony of pain meets pleasure. And ordinarily finding myself in the position I was in, I might have taken one or all of the above! But that was not what I was here for today.
I cleared the negative thinking out of my mind, I embraced the lactic burn, and got my head back in the race. GRRRRR! If I’m not hurting, I’m not racing. So I pushed it. I caught one of the riders in front, then a second, then a few more, and so on. On the last lap, I even caught the guy that shouted my parting message after my fall. Then, I passed him too. As I raced by him, I left him with a parting message of my own.
I came across the finish line with the lackluster level of fan-couragement usually reserved for the final finishers of a cross race. As a matter of fact I’ve heard more cheers during a Friday night of bowling. As I rolled through the finish, I got off the course and spiraled back to the start line for the beginning of the next and final race of the day. As my friend pinned my next race number on my back he asked how I did. “I sucked,” I said, But I’m ready to suck again!”
My next race I started almost dead last of 129 riders. I finished 108th. It’s cross season, and it feels really good to be racing again.