Race Report - Badger Cross: The Midwest Regional Championships

7:59 PM

Checking out the snow cover during the warm-up

35 degrees, wet snow falling thickly from the sky, and a course that encompasses all manner of cross goodness: mud, sand, frozen ground, slush, hills-that-should-be-but-aren’t-rideable, and run-ups-that-should-be-but-aren’t-runable.  (What does it look like to run an un-runable hill?  Ugly).  Oh yeah, and bacon-wrapped cupcake handups. 

Because his race is after mine, the Spouse wants to stay warm – so he hangs out in the warming house where they have a roaring fire and comes out to cheer me on when I slide by.

“You’re doing awesome!”  He shouts.  I promptly go down on an off-camber corner.

“Way to go!”  He offers a lap later.  I slide out on my front wheel and splat one more time in the accumulated slush.

So the next time around he yells, “You fall every time I cheer, so YOU SUCK!”  The woman attempting a pass over my right shoulder flops into the mud.

The Midwest Regional Championships are two laps old, I can almost feel my fingers, and a smile spreads across my face.

We went down to Verona, Wisconsin this past weekend to check out the course for Nationals.  Because of conflicting work schedules, we missed the warm/dry Saturday races but were there for every minute of the snow-storm-filled Sunday.  As I warmed up on the trainer beneath the shelter of a tent, I placed my chances of finishing the race at 75%.  After a quick preview lap right before the start I lowered my expectations to 50/50.  I figured sight was going to be an important part of a good cyclocross race, and my glasses (which are very necessary, as I am pretty much blind without them) were covered with melting snow within a few minutes on the course. 

It turns out I was wrong.  After another anti-hole-shot start (second-to-last place, whoo-hoo!), I spend the first lap or so confusedly trying to navigate a course by feel and my sketchy memory of my preview lap, but the support of a loved one yelling “You suck!” was just what I needed to let go and enjoy the chaos of a crazy cross race in crazy weather. 

Sunday was just the kind of race I love – one where my mad mountain bike skills can be put to their intended use: hiding the fact that I’m not in as great of shape as I intended.  Though I lost ground on every lengthy uphill to the power riders, every unstable downhill and loose mud/snow/slush corner was an opportunity to gain time back.  Though a few riders eventually powered away (including one on a mountain bike – cheater!), I was able to work my way up through the field from second-to-last into sixth position and the best USA Cycling points I’ve ever earned.  I haven’t yet crossed the line into the 200s, but this was as close as I’ve ever gotten.

So, in about a month I’m heading back to Verona to participate in my age-group race at the National Championships.  My goal?  To come in anything but last.  Hopefully my preview race will help me accomplish this lofty goal…

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