Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You've got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin' [the roadies] pass you by
Don't you think it's worth your time
To change your mind?
Is it a bad sign when I already have my tongue out before I start?
When someone on Facebook tried to correct me earlier in the week on my referring to the Long Run Circuit Race as a road race, I rephrased my definition to "a race on pavement in which one is expected to draft rather than gunning it for the hole shot". It was definitely one of those cases where knowing something intellectually and actually acting in accordance with that knowledge are two different things.
Once the race began, I didn't quite go for the hole shot, but I did go to the front of the pack, along with pretty much all of the other cyclocrossers in the race. I made a joke about this to the girls next to me, and immediately regretted it. I've made the same mistake in my limited road racing experience in the past, and it didn't work well. I've got to learn to just keep my mouth shut and my nose out of the wind. I'm just not used to the first couple of minutes of a race being anything less than a lactic acid shower of hell.
I'd taken a couple of practice laps and figured out what I thought were good lines that allowed me to go through the corners with no brakes, although I was still a bit tentative about forcing myself to pedal through. However, as the girls around me starting to fall into a single-file line before the first corner, I realized that I was in a bad position in relation to everyone else and kind of panicked. A few people slipped in front of me as we entered the turn and I saw the girl in front of me lose traction just a tiny bit. She stayed upright, but it scared the crap out of me and going up the first little hill (where I got dropped in 2009), I found everyone was strung out that I had been pushed from the front to the back of the pack. This continued through every corner of the first lap, until I finally got gapped on the downhill turn into the second lap.
I tried to catch on, but I just couldn't close the gap. I watched Karen Elmore, my frequent cyclocross and mountain bike rival from the previous year, fly by me down low with her hands in the drops and reattached herself, as I thought, "Wow, she's looks like she knows what she's doing." I foolishly believed that I would be okay by just going through the turn at the bottom of the hill alone and full bore, and that I would reattach to the back of the pack as they slowed on the next hill. I got very close, but didn't quite make it. I observed a few little sub-groups breaking off at the top of the hill and hoped to at least join them, but they pulled away again on the downhill. And that was pretty much how the next few laps went. I would get really close to catching someone on the uphills, only to lose all the space I had gained on the downhills.
Finally the last person got within in a uncatchable distance and I had to proceed with the unpleasant task of the slow, painful time trial to the finish for DFL. Seriously? DFL? Yes, DFL. That was humbling. I knew I wasn't in tip-top shape, and I knew that due to my lack of road skills, that I could potentially be beaten by people I normally beat in cyclocross, but that was ugly. Ultimately, I think it has way more to do with the fact that I don't know how to road race more than anything, which means that I just have to keep at it until I learn. My whole point of doing this was to try and close up a known hole in my cycling skill set, but I just didn't realize how gaping the hole was.
Anyway, I get another chance to try and do better in the OSRS New Haven race this weekend. Say it with me: Mouth shut. Nose out of the wind. Find someone you trust and follow them through the corners.
Sunday was a better day, since Adam and I went to BCSP for our first mountain bike ride since the DINO Town Run race back in August. I think that's the longest I've ever gone without mountain biking since I've owned a mountain bike. Normally I go a least a couple of times in the fall, but I've never done such a full cyclocross season as I did last year. Anyway, it was nice to be out on the trails again, even if it did feel a little odd.