It looks like I have another arm coming out of my chest doesn't it?
Rain, rain, rain, rain dominated the days leading up to the climatic Cyclocross season finale at Monroe. My brake pads were shot so I replaced them in anticipation of a muddy, gritty secession. A couple spins up and down the street and I would be good for the race that was still a couple days away.
I did math and tried to figure out what would have to happen for me to get on the podium. You drop your lowest finish and the final was worth double points. If you took out the low races, I was fourth with 302 points and there was a guy with 301 and another with 300. Scott, who was nine points ahead of me was traveling and wasn’t sure if he would make it back. The guy with 300 points had been first or second in every race and even though he was two points behind me (he missed two races and was still in the hunt), if he showed up, he’d beat me and thereby pass me on points. I made a list of predicted finishes and I expected to end up fifth in the series.
I pumped up the mud tires, but didn’t put them on the bike. I had managed to end up with the team tent last week, so I was bringing most of the team gear and the car looked like Hottie and I were refugees.
Loaded for bear..
I hadn’t set any specific goals about trying to follow any particular rider, or make sure and beat that guy. I just wanted to race, have fun and be done. Tim and Sam showed up to cheer for Dave F and myself, which was nice. Tim was convinced I could podium. He is as much of a numbers geek as I am and he made it sound simple, “You just have to beat those guys.” I tried to argue but he would not be deterred.
I put on the mud tires and did the pre-ride. It confirmed the course was to my liking. I did grab the brakes on the screaming downhill only to realize the mud tires had narrower rims and my brakes were almost useless until I tightened the cables.
We had set up the tent and now it was raining harder and harder. Something that perplexed me last year was what to wear in hard, cold rain. If you layer under your jersey the cold water wicks through the layers in milliseconds. I pondered this all summer long and never came up with an answer.
I put on my team vest over the unitard and slathered embrocation on my legs. I selected my socks based on their being thin and wool, so they wouldn’t hold much water, thereby not adding pounds to my feet when soaked. The vest turned out to be perfect for the conditions and a question I had been asking since last December was finally answered.
At the start line I peeled off at the last minute and my teammate Tim, gathered up our muddy layers and I looked around. No spinner John. Scott was there, I wished him luck and meant it. He said he drove sixteen hours on Friday to be here to race on Sunday. There was a river of water on the right side of the starting straight away, so I took a slot on the left.
I got a decent start and hit the first sharp corner fifth or so. On the long power straight I lost some places and when we turned and began the grass climb I was about tenth.
“I gotta move up,” I said to myself and got out of the saddle. I passed riders with ease and had moved up to about forth as we hit the venue trademark down, and up off camber.
Evo running instead of crashing
I had decided to run it and dismounted early and cut it high and tight. I found myself second after that section. After a stretch of road we had a stupid steep climb and then we were in a mud bath. I was still sitting second and then we went into the mud pit of despair. There were no good lines and we were again in a bunch of five when we hit the sand.
I used my Portland riding experience and took the line where the water was. Once the ground is saturated, the water pools on top, but the surface under the water is stable and you can ride faster through those lines. I shot ahead and found myself in first. I wasn’t about to do all the work and so I just tried to ride good lines and see what happened.
We crossed the finish line on the first lap and I was still in first. I wasn’t cooked, so I didn’t panic. I pushed on the long straight and waited for someone to come around. Nobody did.
On the grass climb four riders shot past me and I tried to catch the wheel of rider number four. He got a little gap, but I kept drilling it. We had a huge gap on everyone else.
When we completed the second lap the announcer said I was fourth, but I hadn’t passed anyone that I remembered. We were catching some lapped riders, but generally had clear sailing on the course.
I was ahead of Alex who was Mr. 301 and Scott was behind him. I didn’t know who was in front of me, but I was going about as fast as I could imagine. I figured the third lap was where I would either succeed or fail. I got out of the saddle after sharp turns as much for speed as to try and discourage anyone chasing me. I tried to ride smart lines and could see the riders in front of me, and those chasing me.
At the end of lap three they said I was fourth, but I still figured I was fifth.
Cyclocross can be.... Refreshing
After the grass climb I could see Alex, Scott and Dave F coming after me. I still had a gap and was pushing. I thought that if I managed to stay ahead of these guys a by-product might be catching the rider in fourth (since I was sure I was fifth).
Tim and Sam were yelling for me and it helped. I saw a Cucina rider in front of me and while I thought there had been two Cucina riders in the group of four that passed me this guy was gassed and I figured he was a lapped rider and I tried to catch him.
Cresting the run up !
I got closer and closer and then when we hit the mud pit of despair I stayed close, but kept my own line in case he crashed or stalled. After the mud I was close and then we hit the double barriers on the asphalt and I was right on him. He cut me off when he remounted and I sat behind him as we entered the sand. I had his wheel on the corner and then I exploded and passed him and kept going. There was no reaction so I assumed he was a lapped rider. I kept on it and as I approached the line they said I was third.
Slip sliding to third !
I really was third. It was my highest finish ever in a Seattle Cyclocross race. Scott finished sixth. My teammate Dave F was seventh and Alex was eighth. We all shook hands and posed for a picture or two.
I made it back to the tent and Tim told me there were showers at the restroom and I grabbed my bag and headed off to get some warmth in my bones. I was about to take off my shoes when I changed my mind and walked into the shower in full muddy kit and shoes. I undressed and dried and was getting dressed when Tim burst in and told me I had finished third in the series. I made the podium !!
I'm gonna need a bigger helmet !
I managed to beat Scott by three points. If I hadn’t beaten the last Cucina rider I would have been fourth by one point. Scott congratulated me. I told him I had been racing in this category for seven years and it was about time I got some bling. He was almost as happy for me as I was.
I made it to the podium with two minutes to spare and when they called my name I was jumping up and down like a caffeinated contestant from The Price is Right. I got a bronze colored cowbell for third (gold and silver for first and second). I also get two free races next year.
Spinner John’s teammate Alex came up to me after the race. He had clobbered me early in the season and battled me in the middle and I beat him in the last few races. He commented on my improvement and asked me what I did to make such a difference. I told him the absolute truth, “I have no idea.”
Hottie and I stuck around all day while she took pictures of the races. I had a celebratory Brat and it was okay. A while later I had a second one and that wasn’t such a good idea. It was easy to follow me that day as I kept the cowbell around my neck.
The next morning I went to spin class on a Monday for the first time in many months. I was in full team kit, which I have never done. Spinner John didn’t say a word to me as I walked in. Finally as we were warming up he asked if I had ridden the day before.
I whipped out the cowbell which had been tucked into my jersey.
“Third place on the day and third place in the series,” I shouted.
I rang the cowbell and the class clapped. Spinner John was stunned.
It was fun to get on the podium. I can think of a hundred things that are more important, or mean more, but it was fun. For a season that started under such strange circumstances, it sure ended on a high note.