On Sunday, I started somewhat tentatively again. I didn't have time for a warmup or pre-ride when I got to the venue, so I didn't fight for a holeshot. The course started by crossing some fields and entering a flat, forested area. I maintained contact for a while, but I wasn't feeling great and I got slowed down by riders ahead having trouble with obstacles a couple of times in the forest.
After passing through the flat part of the woods, there was a stiff fire road climb. Normally, climbs are my friend, but even my lowest gear felt too high, and I lost a couple places. I tried climbing out of the saddle, but found I couldn't keep my rear wheel hooked up.
I lost another on the next big climb, then finally came into territory familiar to me from cyclocross races.
During the second lap, the leading riders from some of the other starts started catching me, and I got passed quite a lot. I felt out of breathe and my legs felt slow and heavy. I finished the lap convinced I had to be at the back of the pack for my class. I also finished feeling a lot better than I often do after these races. I notice that when I'm in good form, I can push myself a lot harder and while I have more fun racing and get better finishes, I also feel a lot more destroyed afterwards.
My result was actually better than I thought. 8th place again, but in a field of 12, placing me in the middle third. I was 85 seconds behind the guy in front of me, and about three and a half minutes back of the 4th-6th place riders. In a race lasting a little under an hour, 85 seconds is not a lot of time.
In a sense, I haven't learned anything new from this race. That made it pretty frustrating. But when the results were posted, I was reminded of something I noticed last season - just because I'm not feeling that good subjectively or I didn't get to pre-ride and warm up doesn't mean that my performance will degrade as much as it feels like it should. If a bad day puts me in a bad mid-pack spot, a good day can probably put me in a good mid-pack spot, maybe a better one than what I was able to do last season. I was glancing over some old blog posts and saw that I finished the season wanting to crack the top 5 in an Indie Series race. I'd say that's a good goal to work on this season, since I never quite did it last season.
I get another chance this weekend. So I'll try to get a lot of sleep this week, race hard tonight, get to the venue with time to pre-ride and warm up, and then race at high intensity right from the start and keep it going until I cross the finish line. I'd like at least one good finish before the Indie Series races start up.