Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sometimes, Just Finishing is an Accomplishment

I had my first 'cross race of the season on Sunday. I've had a cough for about two weeks, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be up to racing at all last weekend, so I didn't pre-register. I noticed that, riding my bike to work, I'd be more-or-less okay once I got warmed up, so when I felt more-or-less okay on Sunday morning I decided to go through with it.

The parking lots were already full when I got to the park, so I had to mess around with that for a while before registering. Then I found that the previous group of racers were still out on the course, finally finishing their race well after 10am. Since my start was supposed to be at 10:20, I decided to forego my usual pre-ride. I thought that might happen, so I warmed up in one of the soccer fields for a while before the race. My heart went from zero to sixty incredibly quickly when I was warming up, and I felt a lot of resistance riding on the field. I'm not sure if that's mostly me or mostly that grass tends to generate a lot of rolling resistance.

For the first race of the season, the organizers placed people according to the last digit of their race numbers. I was placed on the third or fourth row. That wasn't really where I wanted to be - I already had a good idea that just finishing would be a struggle.

As I rode the course, I learned that it was almost exactly the same as last year. They'd added some more turns on the grass, but that was it. Of course, riding on flat grassy fields is pretty much the weakest aspect of my 'cross riding, but I don't think it mattered on Sunday.

Every pedal stroke came hard while I was racing, and I lost place after place after place. However, my dismount seems to be intact, and I was fine on the run-up, which was mercifully short. I probably could have ridden it easily on my mountain bike, or even on the 'cross bike if the line in wasn't blocked by a tree. As it is, I found I could ride about halfway up, but couldn't maintain momentum.

Finally, I heard the bell going across the line. The announcer was (mistakenly) calling one to go. I hadn't been lapped yet, and I was proud of that. Not too long after I crossed the start/finish line, though, the announcer corrected his mistake - two to go. I was tempted to walk off the course, but I was also determined to finish.

So I made it through the remaining two laps, and even sprinted across the line, mainly for the sake of practice.

The owner of the shop sponsoring my team was there, with his new job, so I put my bike near the booth he was manning and coughed for a while. I'm surprised I didn't also dry heave or something - I felt pretty rotten. No nausea, since I couldn't dig deep enough for that, but my asthma was definitely back in force. I collected my things, hung out for a while, and drove home.

I did manage to do the whole race at my short race effort level, so I'm happy with that. I finished in 59th place - my worst 'cross finish ever. However, I did manage to stay in the leader's lap, so that's a small victory. My bike also worked flawlessly during the race, which made me happy - that was one of the reasons I went.

I'm hoping that all this means that when I go to my next race, having had some time to rest and get over my cough, I'll actually be fast enough to be in the race, and not just on the course. I'm glad I did it, though - I did not want to start the series by missing the first race.

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