Sunday, October 4, 2009

Silver Lining

The conditions for yesterday's race seemed like a foregone conclusion. I awoke to clouds, cold and spitting rain. I drove through the same all the way to Grand Rapids. I started my warm up on a chilly, rainy course. And then, when I had finished my warm up laps and was practicing running the barriers over and over, the sun started peeking through the clouds. By the time I was in the thick of the race, the sun was shining full on, and I was sweating like crazy and wishing I'd left my jacket behind.
While I was doing my warm up laps, I was thinking that I really didn't want to race. This is nothing new. I constantly get nerved up before a race, but this felt different. It was more like I just didn't care. I don't remember ever feeling so apathetic. I think that coming in last all the time and never being competitive is starting to get to me. However, I haven't been practicing for nothing, and I didn't drive all the way there and pay my money just so I could bail. So I focused myself on one goal—doing a good job on my dismounts. I hoped that would be enough to get me through the race.

There was another big crowd at the starting line. I took my usual place at the back and started sizing up the people around me. There was a girl there in some kind of all pink riding kit. For some reason I fixated on her and decided I wanted to beat her. She was skinny, looked pretty serious, and I didn't figure I had much of a chance, but I guess I needed more motivation to race.

We took off and I started out riding fairly hard. Something was different. There were people ahead of me, but they weren't far ahead of me. I was feeling pretty good, so I shifted and started speeding up. I passed a few people. The girl in the pink was quite a bit ahead of me, but I was gaining on her.

By the second lap, I was still riding hard, but wondering how long I could sustain the effort without blowing up. I felt more competitive than I've ever felt in a race, and instead of just deciding to slow down because I was tired, I wanted to push myself until I truly couldn't take it anymore.

Somewhere in lap 3, I caught up with the girl in pink and passed her, along with a guy who was right behind her. She was breathing down my neck for at least another entire lap. At one point, she passed me briefly, but I passed her back almost immediately. The guy was still there, hanging back a bit behind both of us. Finally, it was the last lap. I about killed myself trying to sustain the effort. My lungs were burning and I thought I was going to explode any minute.

In the last set of switchbacks, I was struggling to stay ahead of her and the guy, who were both just behind me. As the last stretch began, she suddenly motored past me. The guy started to go, but I wasn't going to let both of them pass me at the end. I dug in and found something there to stay in front of him.

I never did catch her, but I came in 29th out of 34, meaning I beat 5 whole people. I felt better about this race than I have felt about a race in a long time. Needless to say, I can't wait for the next one. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait two weeks.


Ali B. said...

Way to push through the pain of cross! I find that if I go into a race feeling apathetic, I do a lot better - settles my nerves. Sounds so wrong and backwards and anti-pump-it-up... but it works for my nerves.

Laurie said...

Great job at the race, Andrea!

SpeedyChix said...

Great racing! Well done.