The difference between yesterday's race and my previous mudfest experiences was that instead of the front and center call-up that allowed me to sprint out of harm's way before the carnage ensued, I was stuck in the fourth row for the start. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in front of the carnage, I decided to not waste my energy on an aggressive start and give myself space to navigate around the carnage and try to pick off as many people as possible as they made mistakes. However, there were much fewer mistakes happening in front of me during the first few minutes of the race than I expected, and I wasn't seeming to gain that much time from the ones that did happen. I also made a couple of mistakes myself while trying to predict the moves of those in front of me.
By the middle of the first lap things were already spread out so far that I really only had one girl within sight that I might still be able to pick off. I was riding better than her technically, but I just wasn't really able to shut down the gap, and I started to realize that I just didn't feel that great physically. There wasn't anything specific that felt bad, or even an especially strong feeling of pain or heaviness in my legs. I was just missing whatever it is that normally makes me fast in mud. There was no plowing through the slop and holding it steady when my bike bounced and shuttered beneath me. Just pathetic slogging and weaving. I really only did well on the super low-speed technical parts where I could "make it", but at the cost of going 2 mph. My talent for letting it slide *just enough* through the corners and saving it at the last second barely came into play, because I was never going fast enough for cornering speed to be in an issue.
So it was kind of a bummer to not race well on such a muddy day, but I didn't get too upset about it. I'm really trying to come to terms with the fact that this season I am truly just racing for fun. It's just hard to remember that sometimes when the "fun" hurts that bad. If there is anything to be learned from the women who are 10+ years older than me and 10 minutes ahead of me, it is that I still have many years left to race cyclocross. So if this season, and maybe even next season, don't go so well while I'm making big life transitions, that's okay. For now I just need to not let my fear of being slow interfere with an otherwise fun experience.
|A rare tongue-free, and even flattering, race picture|
|Yeah, this is more what the real me looks like.|