Monday, September 19, 2011

And This One Time, at Fisherman's Park

For so many years, I had to tell the story: "No, I've never actually won a race. At least not one with other people in it. Well, except for this one time at Brookside in 2006, I beat one girl, and it was awesome."

And then my day came. I climbed to the top step of a real live cyclocross podium at a real live OVCX race, and this is the picture I have to prove it:

Looks a whole heck of a lot like, "this one time I beat this one girl", huh?

Well, don't let the picture fool you. It was a tough battle getting there.

A steady drizzle through the morning left the grass on the course slick, although no real mud had started to build up when I took my practice lap. I wasn't feeling too great, mostly due to nerves. It didn't help that my bike seemed to weigh 20 pounds more than the sprightly steed that I'd ridden at Applecross the week before. When I finished the lap, I realized why and didn't feel so bad.

All of the wet grass was clogging my brakes and making my bike look like Swamp Thing:

Adam got it cleaned off and loosened my brakes a little to compensate for the buildup that would happen during the race, and then I had to just line up and hope for the best. Three categories started in my wave: Cat 4 open women, Cat 4 35+ women, and junior girls 15-18. We were all mixed together and then separated on the results at the end.

I got a nice front-row center call-up and a decent start off the line. I was in third until the first barrier, but lost a few places before a particularly tight turn where a I got caught behind a crash and lost a couple more. I started to make up the ground and then I was bumped off course when I tried to pass a girl on a twisty up and down section. It was probably mostly my fault for not calling out that I was passing, but I was a little too gassed to yell and hoped I could sneak through.

So the first lap concluded with me chase mode, and it stayed that way until about a third of the way into the third lap. At that point, I had lost the wave leaders, but still seemed to be in good position within my age group and was making up ground on who I thought was the category leader. Then a couple of girls passed me and I started getting worried. Fortunately, the last half of the course had a lot of off-camber and slick up-and-down turns. Rather than killing it, I stayed calm and focused on being smooth and mistake-free. This worked perfectly, as I managed to pass back the two girls who'd just caught me and finish off the one I'd been chasing all race when they each made mistakes on the slick stuff.

Clearing the last technical section, I gunned it as hard as I could to get away from the girls I'd just passed. There was still a chance that I'd have to defend for a fourth lap if no singlespeed men lapped me before the finish line. Part of me wanted to get a fourth lap in, because I knew some of the top women in the wave would, but I was also 95% sure that I was leading the under-35 race and really just wanted to seal my win. So when I glanced over so see the rider coming around me before the final uphill was male, I said a silent thank you and pushed with all my might to make sure no women passed me before the finish.

Even though I got to stand on the top step of the podium, I was still beaten by a couple of hella fast juniors and four women from the 35+ category. So my first "win" still feels like unfinished business. I want to make it to the for-real top of my wave and not the arbitrarily age-graded top. The good news is that I'll head to Brookside on Saturday with greater confidence and try to climb a little further up the ladder. It should be good. After all, I did beat that one girl there that one time.

Speaking of confidence, I wore these nifty socks yesterday. Sure they match my kit, but they also just kind of spoke to me. I mean, it's just a little easier to have swagger in competition when your socks are "cocky":

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