Monday, November 14, 2016

Race Report: Rockburn CX

In which: they can't all be winners.

Rockburn CX wasn't what I wanted, results-wise, especially on such a cool course. But hey! that's cross.
This is the podium! I am not on it, but it's still a very cool podium!
I woke up late. I was supposed to pick up a friend in Silver Springs (about a 20-minute drive from me) at 6:30. I woke up at 6:25. Good thing I pack for races the night before! I flew into my clothes, loaded everything into the car as quickly as possible, and hit the road! We ended up arriving at the race venue only 25 minutes later than I'd planned. We had plenty of time to pick up our numbers before registration closed, but were a bit tight on time to pre-ride the course. I managed to get my number pinned and preview the sand pit on the course, which I thought would be crucial (it wasn't), and a little bit of the single-track through the woods.

I had a first-row call-up for the women's 4 race and got a terrific start. After last week, I committed to hanging onto wheels for the first lap, rather than taking the lead from the start (especially since I hadn't seen 90% of the course). I sat third wheel through most of the first quarter of the course, including the sand pit. We took the first turn into the wooded single-track fast. I hit a rock on the left-hander and heard a sickening "PSSSSSSS." Pinch flat. Game over.

I walked/jogged half the course to the pit while the entire field passed me. But I don't have disc-equipped pit wheels (Emily, are you reading this? I think I need new wheels), so that was it. I withdrew. DNF for me.

I went back to the car to fix my flat and get ready for the 3/4 race at noon. I was able to get a proper pre-ride and warm-up after the junior races at 10. The course was terrific! It reminded me of the kind of courses I rode in Kansas City, way back when. There was a good mix of flowing, grassy turns, wooded single-track, off-camber Ws, steep turns and drop-offs . . . oh, it was a great course. Probably my favorite of the season.

I lined up second-row for the 3/4 start. Got into the first turn in the top 10, and worked my way up to third wheel through the first few turns. I felt so strong and fresh and fast. I felt like a contender, as I slipped past the top-ranked 3/4s (who are normally well ahead of me) and entered the woods in the top 5. Coming into the only sustained climb, I was sitting second wheel, but the pace felt slow. So I took the lead, drilled the hill, and increased my lead through the downhill. I held my lead through the first lap with solid lines through the off-camber turns. As I bombed down a drop-off and absorbed the bump at the bottom, I heard some yell, "Whoa, yeah! Katie Compton!"

I took a solid lead going into the second lap. Carried more speed than I knew I could through the early turns. Then I clipped my pedal on the first downhill turn; I guess I took it too fast and leaned into it a little too much. Lost 3 or 4 places, but got back on and began the process of trying to catch up again. I was still in the top 5, I think. I was doing well until I carried too much speed into another turn and went through the tape. I was starting to make silly mistakes. I was still in the top 10, but had big gaps to make up.

I was gaining on the girls in front of me, but was not feeling good by the third lap. My stomach and hips and back and rib cage were getting really tight. I was cramping hard. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't sit up all the way. Going over the barriers, I could barely stand up enough to lift my bike over the barriers. I had to back off. I soft-pedaled and watched a huge chunk of the field go past me. I hurt, and considered pulling out at the end of the lap.

But I got the bell on that lap (because I'd dropped under 80% of the previous lap time), so I decided to carry on. A little ways into that final lap, the cramps eased off, and I was able to work hard again. I was able to pull back two riders before the end of the race. Finished 15th out of 29, which is consistent with my performance in previous 3/4 races.

However, this race felt TOTALLY different; the results don't tell the whole story. For the first time, I felt like I could contend for a win in the 3/4 field. I haven't been anywhere close to that feeling so far this season (or ever . . . just check my results from my racing in the KC CX scene). I wasn't expecting to feel so good, and as a result I made a few silly mistakes.

Sure, I clipped my pedal on a turn, and took a turn too fast and ended up in the tape, but my biggest mistake was taking control of the race on the first lap. Sure, I was sitting pretty going into lap 2, but could I have sustained that control for 4 more laps, or would I have blown up and ended up 15th anyway? Instead, I should have stayed second or third wheel and waited to follow moves. Tactics haven't come into my racing in the women's 4 field, but it's something I need to keep in mind when I upgrade.

My other big mistake was related to oversleeping: I completely forgot to bring water. I sat around for 4 hours before the race drinking nothing but coffee. I was really thirsty going into an unusually warm November day, and I paid the price for my mistake in pain and a result that was much less than what I could have done on the day. Also, as my friend Anna pointed out, I was thrown off my mental game with the disruption of my routine. That probably played a part, too.

But that's cross! Some days you get flats. You cramp. You crash. You come back and do better the next weekend. The positive side is that I don't have any more upgrade points than I had last week, which means I can still race the cat 4 races I've already paid for! Hopefully, I'll have good result these next two weeks and will be able to upgrade. Then I'll be ready to start making in-roads on the 3/4 field. And I had a couple of gals thank me for flatting . . . because they got to stand on the podium! So cool! Congratulations on a a great race, ladies!

Two races, two results that I'm not happy with. But that just gives me more fire for AppleCX this weekend and Cap CX the weekend after that. If I win the next one, I'll have more than enough points to upgrade (14/15), but not so many that I'll have to upgrade (so I can still race the Cap CX race, which I've already paid for). Does that make me a sandbagger?

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