|That green bag by my feet has podium beer!
I got a great start from the whistle and took the hole shot . . . and kept it for a long time--through most of the first lap! I kept waiting for someone to come around me, but no one did, although I could hear people behind me. I got over the barriers cleanly, but there was an obstacle just past the barrier (rail ties on an uphill--too big and too slow to ride over) where I got too excited and dropped my chain. It was the same thing I did at Luray--set my bike down too hard, and the chain bounced right off. I lost first place while I was trying to get it back on.
First place was still within reach, though, and I could see that the place to beat her was in the technical sections and on the corners; she was plenty strong. I kept the gap consistent, weaving my way around cat 5 men as necessary (the men were all courteous except for one, and I think being grumpy was just his schtick). The gap was holding steady on our second lap, and I thought I could pull her back in the last two. Then on my third lap, I tried to pass one of the cat 5 men on an inside corner just before the rail tie obstacle and slid out. I hammed up my spectacular fall (I knew I had a good gap on third and fourth place), got back on after the rail ties, and continued. The gap to first place had increased, of course, but I brought it back to where it was by the start of the fourth and final lap.
I felt secure in second, because I was gaining time on third place, but I had to fight the urge to settle in and let first place keep her win. I dug in for one more hard lap. I think I was pulling her back, although I probably still wouldn't have caught her, but then I clipped my back wheel on the second barrier and dropped my chain again. Goodbye, first place. Finished in second place feeling pretty good about my performance.
Then I started my period, so I almost skipped the 3/4 race and went home. But I'd already paid the entry fee, so I stuck around. Took the 3/4 race as a training ride. Figured I'd get lapped by the leaders of the 1/2/3 race and finish early, anyway. I got a reasonably good start, and stayed with a large group for the first lap. I cooled my effort way down and deliberately let the main group get away; my legs were hurting from the first race (and from the volume I did last week while vacationing in the Virginia foothills). I focused instead on taking good, smooth lines through the corners, staying off my brakes, and keeping my chain on the chainrings. I messed up one sharp corner trying to pass wide, and lost a couple of places, but at least I didn't knock the other two women over or slow them down! I dropped my chain one more time at the rail ties; I think I kicked my chain with my heel while I was unclipping, but I managed to ride the chain back on by shifting up after I re-mounted, rather than getting the chain back on before getting on the bike. That saved me some time. On my last lap, I figured I was so close to getting lapped that I would be the last one let through, and I backed way off my intensity. About a quarter of the way through the course, I realized there were two women gaining on me, and I had to get back on the gas to avoid losing two places (actually just one place, because one of the women was in the masters 45+ field)! I finished my last lap with a comfortable gap, though, 15 out of 24 (2 out 10 cat 4s).
Lessons learned--I need to finesse my mounts and dismounts a little better, to avoid dropping my chain. After the first drop at the rail ties, I was extra careful every time I put my bike back down. Losing 2-3 seconds to a more graceful movement is way less than the 10-15 seconds to get my chain back on, especially when I'm all adrenalined. Each time I dropped my chain, it was in a different way, so I learned three new things to avoid. I also readjusted my chain catcher, and I'm going to replace the chain in a week or two; it's starting to stretch quite a bit, and 'cross is harder on chains than regular cycling.
If my pattern of improvement holds, I should be on the top step next week at Ed Sanders . . .