|And underneath all that mud was ice...|
It is a bit strange that my first race of the year is actually the last race in my 2012 cyclocross season, but since USA Cycling realigned with the European calendar it is what it is.
I would like to say that I ended the season with a bang and a glorious race complete with inspirational music lifted from a movie musical montage. Going into the race, though, I knew that wasn’t likely to happen. First, I’m sick. Sick as a dog. I’ve got one of those colds that comes with a deep, chest-rattling cough. If it were any other race, I would have happily begged off and spent the weekend cheering on friends as they raced around Badger Prairie Park.
Unfortunately, Nationals only comes to your backyard once in a blue moon. I’m probably not going to make it out to Boulder, Austin, or Ashville in the next six years. Then you had the course conditions – truly epic. It has been cold and snowy down in Wisconsin, and when we completed our course preview at 9:00 in the morning we were met with hardened and icy ruts. The weather warmed quickly, and when we lined up for our 1:00 pm start it was considerably warmer (about 38 degrees) and there was a slimy layer of thin mud on top of the ice making things very unpredictable. How could I possibly pass that up?!
So I lined up in my back row starting position (did I mention that the handy-dandy race predictor function over at the USA Cycling site had me solidly in last place?) with two cough drops stuffed in my cheeks hoping that would be enough to stave off a hacking fit that might throw me off my bike.
The whistle blew - I was nowhere near the hole-shot, but wasn’t in last place when we entered the icy/snowy course. A few ladies went down in some of the opening turns but I kept the rubber side down by fixing my eyes ahead and not paying attention to the crazy lateral moves my rear wheel was making. The race was a crazy mixture of ice and mud, something I don’t have a lot of experience given the warm falls Minnesota has had the last couple of years, but as I made my way around the course I remembered the Spouse’s advice, “Be safe, have fun.”
|Nice mud-line from my knee warmers|
I did both. I couldn’t really give it a full effort, because my lungs were burning with my pestilence. After the first lap I realized there was still someone behind me (not last!) so the rest of the race was all about keeping ahead (not last!). Clearly, not a lofty goal, but it fit the occasion. I did go down rather hard on an icy corner, but because I was able to ride the big hill I kept a healthy gap on my competition (not last!).
In the end, I made my goal: NOT LAST! I crossed the finish line covered in mud, with a smile on my face, and one woman behind me. Not a blockbuster end to my season, but definitely a positive one. Bonus: because the competition was so fierce in my race, I actually got the best USAC points I’ve ever earned (by over 20 points) – take that, USA race predictor (not last)!