|This is what success looks like!|
I expected the racing to be tough, since the promise of racing on the same course as the pros always draws a larger and deeper field (if not quite so large and deep as Charm City, which had a C1 race and was part of the US Pro Cup). Additionally, the strongest 3s, who normally race the 1/2/3 field locally, join the straight 3 race since the elite race is a P/1/2. I had a few friends who raced the pros on Saturday and Sunday. I didn't envy them, but that will probably be my fate next year. If I work hard in the off-season, maybe I'll be able to finish on the lead lap.
Anyway. My race Saturday was awesome. I got a good start. I rode almost all the features smoothly. I knew that first and second were probably out of my reach, based on previous experience with those two women (girls really; they're 13 and 12 years old). I spent most of the race in fifth place, battling hard for fourth. I caught fourth place (another teenager!) with about 400 m to go in the race and held it to the end. So I got to stand on the podium at DCCX! Fourth place! Whoo!
|And this is what mental fatigue looks like.|
I'm still sitting second place in the series, so I still get a front-row starting spot. I got a terrible start, though, and entered the first turn close to the very back of the field. There was a big crash in one of the first turns, though, and I was able to scoot past it on the left side. That got me a huge number of places back. I was able to work my way back up to about 10th place over the course of the first lap. I managed to catch and pass 8th and 9th in the second or third lap, and felt I could hold them off if I could just ride clean.
I did not ride clean, though. I slipped and fell in a loose right-hand turn that I thought I had dialed. Scraped my elbow on the EXACT SAME SPOT as I hit in my pre-ride crash, which burned like fire. Also took a bunch of skin off of my right calf, and my right hip, and my right shoulder. I somersaulted over my bike and took a second to determine whether I still wanted to go on while 9th and 10th re-passed me. I got up and re-mounted and set to work catching them again. I caught them with no trouble, but was waiting for the right moment to pass. In the final lap, I went down AGAIN in a loose chicane that was a tough turn (lots of crashes there all weekend, great viewing as a spectator) but that hadn't troubled me all weekend. I took all the skin off of my other side, 8th and 9th got a big gap on me, and I mentally said, "Just get me outta here."
I gave up at that point and forced myself to keep pedaling to the end. I managed to make one more big mistake on one of the final turns, where the course crested a hill, went over a tiny little curb onto the road, and then dropped down the other side of the hill before making one more turn onto the finishing straight. So I went into the uphill too fast, cleared the curb, but then totally screwed up my landing and came down so hard on my front wheel that I was convinced I'd broken the carbon or popped a spoke. So at that point I had crashed three times and was pretty sure that I'd broken my bike. I crossed the finish line and rolled off the course, frustrated more than tired, and skinned up all over. The woman I'd been battling for 9th place is a friend of mine, and she was ready with a hug and a "Nice racing!" That helped. Then I rolled back to the team tent, grabbed a water bottled, and rolled off on my own to cool down . . . and have a good cry. I sat on the steps by an abandoned building (the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home, the military retirement grounds where DCCX is held, has a lot of abandoned buildings), burning tear tracks through the dust on my face, and felt sorry for myself. And after about 5 minutes of that, I felt better. And I drank a bunch of beer and talked with my friends and shared stories about all our races and one of my teammates gave me baby wipes to clean off my (many) scrapes . . . and everything was good and fine and I still had an amazing time.
I'm proud of my performance on Saturday, but I've overcooked my brain with all the racing I've been doing. I could have raced much harder and probably been in the contention for 6th place on Sunday, but I didn't have the mental strength. Teaching my spin class on Monday mornings after a double race weekend is normally torture, but this morning my legs felt fresh. That tells me that I'm not overtrained physically; I'm overtrained mentally. So I'm going to shift my focus for the rest of the season and try to hone in on the Sportif Cup races, where I'm sitting second in the overall series. I won AACX, the Sportif Cup race last weekend. A few more wins and I think I'll have the overall lead. I may sit out the rest of the Super Series, or at least take a few weekends off. I'm missing the long, enjoyable, zone 2 rides with my teammates, and I miss the camaraderie of spending hours on the bike with them.
So that was DCCX--the good, bad, and ugly. I plan to take a weekend of long, easy rides and enjoy the feeling of being on a bike. And then I'll race Biketoberfest CX on Saturday and I'll hang out at Tacchino CX on Sunday (but I won't race). (Probably). (Emily, stop reading this).