Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fogelsville Cross: I am in the Mix!

With the Portsmouth/Suckerbrook doubleheader out of the question, I opted for a UCI race in Pennsylvania that was just as close as New Hampshire (if hell traffic could be avoided). I figured the field would like be as deep or less so than at Suckerbrook, that there would be fewer people against whom I would benchmark myself, and that maybe just maybe I could pick up some UCI points. I was very nervous. Because of this long break, I feel a bit like a stranger in this sport that is extremely familiar to me, even though the pre-race parking lot abounds with friendly hellos, catching up with Velo Bella teammates and crew, and seeing photos of - even meeting - new babies. Aspects of it seem strange, as well as repeated, like the conversation “Do you think it’s better to run or ride the sandpit…” Sometimes this outsider perspective can give you the sense of humor about the sport you need. In 2005, when I took a big break from cross then returned for the final Rhode Island weekend, I remember laughing (with affection) at my Gearworks teammates as they stressed over whether to race in leg or knee warmers. This is bike racing – it’s supposed to be fun! I was nervous about my fitness but more nervous that I would be afraid, not have my head around racing, not enjoy it. My plan was to ride easy off the start, then try to do the last few laps faster if I had it in me. Off the start, my main incentive for giving it any juice at all was to avoid crashing. Mo was quickest and got a gap, but I was there. And surprisingly, I was there for the first 2.5 laps of the race – riding with my teammate Dee Dee (back from having a second child) and cross upstart Laura van Gilder (welcome!) in the group sitting 2nd, 3rd, 4th and closing on leader Mo. The course was all grass, twisty with lots of up and down, a barrier set and a sandpit – much less technical than the mountain-bikey Farmington. Mechanic Morgan was there in the pit, issuing supportive words. I was hardly technically fantastic but I could feel myself gaining a sense of balance on the bike and was having fun. For those 2.5 laps I felt utterly comfortable, even while I tried to avoid standing up and accelerating at all costs, given fitness limitations. I did overextend though, and experienced some going backwards mid-race, falling out of the group and riding in for 4th. Dee Dee, Melanie, and I will need to play our cards better this season, use our numbers to out-fox van Gilder since there is no way we will outsprint her. No free rides! So while now I am left thinking “If I had not spent this one match (I went to the front a few times when Dee Dee and I had a gap on LVG), maybe I could have stuck in that group, maybe I could have fought for the win (LVG takes it)….” But then I remember the goals of the race, the context and I think with excitement and relief, “sweet, I am in the mix and getting stronger.” On to Vermont. Pictured: recovery dinner and dinner for my aunt's dog. I almost collapsed at the dinner table, that's how tired I was.


girloffroad said...

Welcome back! It was awesome having you at the race.

The Team said...

Hey! Jake the Snake had a makeover and is ready to roll! I, on the other hand, have lots of new skills to learn. See you soon I hope!