I need to preface my little race report here with an admission that this weekend was a mixture of:
1. guilt of being away from family,
2. doubt about my abilities as an athlete,
3. skepticism about my financial investment in traveling because of or for a hobby,
4. desire to completely and utterly absorb my mind, psyche, and body in massive amounts of suffering and mental focus, and
5. some solid fun, new friends, and new goals for the future with respect to bike racing.
That last part is key and warrants explanation.
2-3x per year I travel with my wife to MD Anderson in Houston, a refuge for those with weird, aggressive, or otherwise exceptional cancer diagnoses that were less-optimally managed by local health care providers. MD Anderson is known for being very aggressive and similar to Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mayo clinic, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, and Stanford is a go-to for cancer patients who have exhausted or exceeded the normal scope of local medical care. Anyway, when I go down I get a ton of scans and tests the first day, then meet with my doctor the following day. The purpose of the scans and tests is to see if the known disease in my body has either (a) grown, (b) remained stable, or (c) improved. Given my clinical course over the past few years, we generally hope for (b). But unfortunately at a few points have been dealt with an (a) hand, which at this point would have uncomfortable implications: mainly, I've exhausted most standard treatment protocols for thyroid cancer and would need a 'novel' agent, aka fancy-new-chemo drug.
Suffering on a bicycle is a wonderful way to keep my mind off what I have very little power to effect.
So, it was a perfect weekend to travel too a bike race where I could spend almost the entire time absorbed in the activities surrounding pedaling a bicycle. Believe me, thinking about a trip like the one I'm going to take this week does not do much good.
Originally the St Louis UCI race was going to be my first adventure into the highest category of American cyclocross racing. But, that didn't happen, so Louisville was the time to have my proverbial cherry popped by a group of bike riders fully capable of lapping me on a cyclocross course given certain conditions (jeez, I'm making this post sound really negative and myself out to be some kind of masochist. Not sure why...hopefully this is cathartic or something). Alternatively, I could learn that my training is paying off and that the St Louis/Columbia, MO cyclocross scene is capable of producing nationally-competitive riders.
I felt pretty ill driving to the race on friday. Cold symptoms all above the head. But I figured it had been 10 days and I might wake up sat or sun feeling great. That didn't exactly happen either day, but I felt generally OK.
Saturday: I suffered. A lot. Legs were bad, I couldn't recover. The course was painfully hard. But, I didn't fall! I rode clean lines, including the sand almost every lap. Bad legs however made the ride/run-up a definite run-up. I started 64th (dead-last) and suffered almost the entire time to finish 46th. And with a certain degree of pride and thankfulness to people like Josh Johnson and Brian Matter who teach me a ton about cross and training, I finished on the lead lap, i.e. I didn't get lapped! The only thing 'bad' about the day was that on the last lap I was heckled into catching air on a jump and when I landed I rolled a tubular. Rhino down!
Saturday night: I knew I was sick and that I was coughing up nastiness. I knew I should sleep and not do much. But, I was staying with some of the Dogfish crew and couldn't turn-down a chance to go out to a microbrewery for a 7pm dinner. I kind-of had a feeling that getting a table at 7pm on a saturday night in downtown Louisville (bad-ass city btw) would be difficult, but whatever. Anyway, it was in fact a 90min wait. I also knew drinking beer is supposed to be bad before a race, but oh well. I did that too. And it was fun. Then when we finally got back to the hotel and into bed, the hotel's fire-alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building in our pajamas. That sucked.
Sunday: Woke up feeling like I needed more sleep. Legs were stiff. Nose was still stuffy, but I was hopeful that when I registered I would pull a number out of the bag that would at least put me in the middle of the field for starting position. Nope. Dead last, #65. Amazing. But at least I had good legs. I was behind a bunch of crashes the first lap and just couldn't move up at all. Then lap 2 started going to work. I felt like I rode OK. Probably a hard tempo pace, but my lines were pretty descent and I was clearing the run/ride-up 90% of the time. The best heckle of the day came in the second to last lap when I was with another guy on the run/ride-up and he ran and I rode and one of the heckler's yelled at him "Don't let that guy pass you, he's the slowest guy riding the run-up!". Sweet.
Here's a shot Matt Dawson took of me alone on the run/ride-up one lap:
I finished 35th on sunday, which all-things-considered has signs of hope. But, I'm not taking too-much away from it or drawing any conclusions. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks; anything can change.
A huge thanks to Casey and Brett from Dogfish for the help this weekend in the pits! And also to the Kona mechanic who was super nice and friendly! And to Anthony, Matt, and all the dogfish dudes who were a bunch of fun to hang with.