(Photo: A. Kieppela)
What started as a stormy morning quickly transformed into a puffy cloud, sun filled afternoon of racing in the mud. The damage had been done however and as the whistle went off we raced into a churned up, slick, slog-fest of a course that would challenge riders both mentally and physically. There were few spots to rest, but plenty of lung busting climbs, greasy corners, slippery root descents, and plenty wheel sucking, derailleur sucking mud sections to keep legs burning. Ahhh Rainer. In some way we cyclocross racers are all masochists, we enjoy the pain that comes from 45 min or an hour of racing in these conditions. It gives focus and clarity. There is nothing but the suffering and a distinct objective to endure.
Rainer certainly dished out the pain for me. A back row call up found me charging up hill immediately trying to make up for last ground and finding a few spots, but not getting where I needed to be. I played Damian's mantra through my head "slow is smooth, smooth is fast..." and plucked away riders as they lost ground, made little mistakes, blew out derailleurs, or otherwise gave in to the demons. I tried not to make mistakes, focused on staying upright, and generally kept myself moving, no small feat on this day. And it worked for the most part. I moved up, I passed riders, I stayed away. I enjoyed getting through sections, not letting the frustration get to me and being patient. I would have loved to pick up a few spots, but I was happy with my effort and how I rode. I am improving significantly on previous years results and I have to trust that the improvement will continue.
There's a lot of joy racing around with hundreds of like minded folks of all different abilities. Everyone gets it. The smiles after finishing, the cheering, the nods in acknowlegement of shared suffering. It's really what makes cross different.
Riding home we basked in the endorphin afterglow and lingering sunshine, singing to the music, picking mud from our ears, laughing, and tired.
I love it!
Check with D and Serena for their reports.