I was so close to being ready for the world cup in Iowa. So close. And then, I took a day off the Monday before and my body responded with a seized up lower back. Is it because my racing age is 30? Am I secretly a Greek Goddess suffering from hubris? Or maybe it is the world’s way of saying that I am wasting my time doing yoga and stretching because I am going to end up in pain anyways. For whatever reason, it happened.
Despite not doing any efforts leading up to the race, it was still stiff and painful for the C2 on Friday. I didn’t want to start, but I was in such a funk: hurt back, bad attitude, that I decided I had to race just to clear my system. Besides, my new Kona Super Jakes had just been built up by Kerry and Mark West, so they needed a thorough shake-out before the big show. My pre-ride of the course was slow, and frantic. The course was slick. I made the mistake of shifting at the wrong time on a sloggy climb and sent my bike into crash mode (on a Di2 rear derailleur when the mechanism feels extreme force it will self shut-off to prevent damage. Ironically I only go into crash mode when I am a bad shifter, not when I actually crash) . I forgot how to reset it, so I headed back to the tent in a worse mood than I started out. Unable to do any real “opening” efforts before the race, I started slow, and my legs felt like they were full of wet cotton until nearly my last half lap.
My result and performance on Friday did not phase me, because a lot of us did not approach it as a race, but instead, an opener for the big show on Sunday. I was still optimistic. But the car ride back to our host house on Friday proved to be too much for my back, and I was hardly able to pull my socks on before dinner. I was devastated. But, with the help of a network of friends, google, and some understanding people, I got some last-minute appointments for a chiropractor and acupuncture on Saturday. Between those treatments and some easy laps where I focused on some skills, I was feeling prepared for Sunday’s world cup.
Once again, on Sunday, the schedule was flipped and women were racing after the men. We had so much course time available I wasn’t even sure what to do with myself! It was great to be able to see Kerry and the other pros take some good lines in prep for my own choices. For many it was a file tread day, but I chose Maxxis All Terranes for some bite in the steep off-cambers and in the event there was some dust or debris build-up through the turns. I was happy with my choice, because the course was a mix of smooth pavement-like dirt ruts and loose gravel-like soil. Traction was not a big worry.
With the men going first, I was alone under the tent for over an hour, and it was SO FREAKING LONELY!! Now I know how Kerry feels while I am out racing and the mechanic is in the pit and he is left to fend for himself on the trainer.
I was happy with my start – I didn’t fight too hard but I sure didn’t go backwards like I could have. The first lap was the typical World Cup fight, and it took well into the lap before anyone even started to settle. I made a few good passes and smart decisions, gaining me 5 spots at a time. I was climbing up. As I worked to pick off groups and riders, I came up behind a group going into the steep off-camber. I went for the same pass I made in lap 1, but what I did not anticipate was Helen Wyman sticking her leg out (also known as dog pissing). I could have just hit the leg, but my instincts made me grab brake, and I immediately slid out on the steep slope. CRAP! I scrambled to the bottom and around the corner and up. I heard the announcer say I was down. My chain had dropped between my cassette and my wheel. I pull it out. I go to get on. It drops again. UGH I forget to shift to move my derailleur away from the wheel. When I dig it out again I shift and see my cage is at way too steep and angle. Going to need to pit. Crap. But the race was away from me. The group I was chasing was lost with the initial mistake. More people passed me during my chain re-set. And even more passed when I had to take a second pass.
I am frustrated that I went down. I don’t regret the pass, but I do regret how I reacted. The crash sucks, obviously, but what sucked more was that I wasn’t calm enough to go through all of the steps to fix it. I could have made up more spots if I would have shifted up the first time.
I was able to chase down only a few people after that debacle. The gaps ahead of me were so big, they weren’t even within sight, and it was hard to channel the fight to go and get them. The only thing driving me was knowing that I only had 2 more people pass to tie Kerry on the day – but somehow even that didn’t push me into the pain cave.
When I pitted I took my “B” bike which has more narrow bars (because Kerry can’t read numbers.) and because I hadn’t ridden it much, the brakes were not as burned in as my “A” bike, so the steep downhill chicanes were really proving tricky. I couldn’t figure out the brakes and I was turning sloppy. I went down a few times, one was a proper face plant. Another fun problem I was having, was I have a much different bike setup than in years prior, and it turns out I may need a saddle with setback, because when I try to move my weight back and “get behind the saddle”, I get so far behind the saddle that my hips actually drop behind and below the saddle so I am essentially stuck when I go to get back onto it. I am working on a new set-up to get around this, or at least figuring out how to avoid it physiologically.
I ended up 24th, which is the same place I ended up last year.
After the race I didn’t feel much like celebrating, but I was relaxed and happy, which looking back is the biggest win of all. Maybe I’m not as mentally engaged as I should be while I race, but before the races I am calm and anxiety is low, and during the race I am having fun and really enjoying it. Afterwards I don’t hate myself. These are all strides above my mental state last year, so I am not going to force anything, but keep guiding myself in the right direction, pushing towards the discomfort, knowing that each race I will get stronger and the strength balanced with the happiness is going to be a sustainable way to race.
But dudes and dudettes, thanks so much for the cheers and support – it means a lot. I know I post a lot about my “not quites” and “almosts”, maybe making excuses, but I think we all know it is there, whatever it is. This may be another season of growing pains, but dammit I am gonna keep throwing everything I have at this damn sport, even if that means finding out that my it is just a top 10 crowd pleaser. DO IT FOR THE GRAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!