Sometimes I can't believe my wife tolerates me.
Saturday was her 30th birthday and somehow in the grand negotiation that is marriage, I had the green light to go race my bike in the evening of her birthday, while she went to a party at one of our friends houses here in Columbia.
A lot of time, energy, planning, and of course, money goes into amateur bike racing. Sometimes it's quite staggering to think about. This year, the bike racing associated bargain with myself, family, and work is that I'd race much less going into cross season and then try not too race every single weekend from now until January. As such, Hermann and Gateway cross were the clear targets for early season racing. Both are reasonably near home and are national-caliber events. I feel pretty confident in saying that if people drove from out of town, they would not be disappointed with the course, volunteers, and promoter of Hermann CX. I only wish more people from Missouri could fit the race into their schedules.
In the build-up to September's CX racing, I opted to not race at all during August. Mostly too stoke my competitive fire, i.e. to get really hungry for the entire experience. But also just too have more time on the weekends. I took a 2 week break, almost completely off the bike in late July and early August, then did 2 weeks of endurance riding in the 13-15hrs/week range. Those are big weeks for me, as I normally average 6-10, sometimes 11 or 12hrs/week. After that, it was 4 weeks of specific CX-style training almost always first thing in the morning as per work and family obligations.
Anyway, we're in the process of moving right now so things have been pretty hectic in general, so the escape to the pain cave of cyclocross racing really served as a much needed mental re-ordering. I still don't know what it is about cross that I find so incredibly fun and engrossing, but I really do love every minute of it.
The weekend started with a trip to a bed & breakfast in Rocheport for me and Maggie. I figured it'd be a nice way to celebrate her birthday and get in a mellow evening in this very hectic time. I had picked up some kind of GI-nastiness on Thursday which persisted all day Friday, so at about 5pm friday, I thought I might need to pull the plug on the plan to race saturday. But come Saturday, I was feeling much better and proceeded to gorge myself full of food just about all day.
I really had no idea what to expect from my body that evening. I knew that Josh, the Ethos boys, Devin, and Jay could all cause some serious pain, so my race plan was too keep the pace pretty high early and then see what happened. I was particularly watchful of Josh, as I knew he's fast from a bunch of road racing and always the smoothest guy out there, so a course like Hermann is right up his alley. On a side note, if you're an intermediate or beginner cyclocross racer, do yourself a favor and become a student of the riders who ride the smoothest (Josh). Study every turn they make, where they go hard, how they recover, and just generally how they manage their energy in a CX race. For me, it's made the learning curve over the last 4 years much easier. Hard too believe that just 4 years ago, I was showing up to my first bike race in 10 years in a t-shirt, on my Surly cross check, with my wife, and 2- week-old baby in tow for Bubba #1 2008.
Anyway, the race started, Jay took off like a mad man, and the next thing I knew I was riding with Devin with a little gap on people...which is a situation I found myself in quite a bit last year, but this year we're on different teams! Josh was close behind, dangling at about the same distance for the remaining 10 of 12 laps. I'm not sure why an hour on a course where you do 12 laps seems so much longer than an hour where you do 7 laps, but man was that a mental battle.
Devin and I rode hard, occasionally putting in little digs but also not full-on attacking each other. He crashed 2 separate times and each time, I rode the same pace we had been riding, which was probably a 6 or 7 out of 10. I'm guessing that too catch back on, we was 8 or 9 out of 10 effort. So when it came to the last lap, I dug deep and buried myself on every section I could hoping that he had burned some matches earlier. I made it to the stairs without him passing, which basically meant I had a few turns, a technical sandy run, then a short swooping grass section to the finish. I don't mean to sound at all like it was nonchalant or no-big-deal, as the reality of coming across the line first on Saturday night was pure elation. A whole lot of heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears poured into training and riding over the past few years. I always hate it when people make hard things sound like they were easy. So, I just want to say that I don't take getting to ride my bike in a race like this for granted. There are times when I feel like the little tiny metastases in my lungs are keeping me from riding hard. And trying to be a decent Dad/husband, going to med school, and actually staying healthy while being completely addicted to entering a world on the bicycle where I can push myself as hard as I possibly can, somehow, at least for the time being, seems to find equilibrium and strangely, bring peace.
I can summarize day 2 by saying, it hurt. And running the entire length of the stairs at Faurot field was excellent training.