Tonight was my first race of the season, and my first race as a member of Team Slow.
I've been dealing with an inordinate amount of stress over the last few months and during the last few weeks it has really gotten me down. I wasn't even really up for racing, and noted my lack of enthusiasm heading into this race. Still, I'd paid for the series pass, signed the waiver, and there I was at PIR. I'd volunteered to help out with the Kiddie race at 5:40, acting as the "rabbit" (leading some adorable children on tiny bikes around a miniature course set up just for them). Kristin gave instructions and sort of headed things up; and Ed was the "rabbit" for the bigger kids. I was concerned about having enough energy to do this between my practice lap and my race, but it all worked out okay. I even had enough time afterwards to watch teammate Erinne do some of her Cat 3 race before mine. She looked strong (ah, youth!) and I hope she'll at least consider singlespeed when she's ready to cat up.
I pulled off a few quick hot laps in the parking lot before heading over to the staging area, where I took my place with three or four other women singlespeeders. Since our category was so small, they simply started all the women at the same time, after the Masters' men and Singlespeed men had gone.
The race went surprisingly well, though I did suffer quite a lot on the last lap. The course was dry, with decent lines created by the previous heat and large chunks on either side of the lines providing obvious boundaries. I swung a few corners wide and heading into the chunky stuff but managed to remain upright the entire race. We were all exceedingly polite; Kristin shouted out encouragement to me as she passed me, I yelled back it was a delightful evening for a race; and faster riders all gave audible warning that they would pass me (even telling me on which side). Stompy performed beautifully, I had no trouble at all racing on a fully-rigid bike (maybe The Gym Thing helped with increased arm strength, too, I dunno) and I gauged the right amount of air to let out before the race. The bike rode well over the chunky terrain, even out of the "back forty" over the perpendicular ruts in the hard, drypacked grass. Would I enjoy this course on a 29'er? Probably. Would it feel as nimble? Doubtful. I'm not tall enough to really need to ride a niner anyway, and I'm perfectly happy with Stompy.
I only needed my inhaler once the entire half hour; I was DFL (of course) but was allowed to finish my final lap before the next race started (thank you, Candi and Brian); and best of all, my legs really were stronger! I was able to enter the motocross track from the "back forty" and power my way up a sharp, off-camber corner to get onto the moto track without dismounting. Best of all, I managed to climb all the way up a very steep berm at the end of the middle rhythm section where many racers were forced to get off and run up. The first lap, I got stuck behind two women who fumbled shifts, and I was forced off my bike; but the next three passes, I had enough room in front of me to build up momentum and I cleaned it every single time -- even on my last lap when I felt so spent. It was the most satisfying part of the course for me, and potential evidence that The Gym Thing may just be something I ought to do every winter. (Question: Do I still keep working out at the gym now that my race season has begun, or do I just ride a lot more now? Don't know how that works, exactly. I will consult with friends in the know and listen to my body.)
It was great having teammates actually at the venue, cheering me on. Sweetie came to watch tonight and was so proud of me, hanging out with my teammates and yelling for me. Afterwards she smothered me with kisses and kept telling me how proud she was of me. (There is pretty much nothing better than racing and having your sweetie tell you what a rock star you are. Nothing.)
(Racing incognito for now; the team kits are due to arrive soon.)
Getting out there on the course and willing myself to suffer seems like a good idea, in retrospect. The moments when it was just me and my heartbeat cleared everything else out of my overworked mind and that can only be a good thing, even if it lasted just thirty minutes. I was totally baked at the end of my race, goofy and slightly stupid from the adrenaline; and it took me a good 20 to 30 minutes to recover. I stayed to watch teammate Ben race with his Masters' age group in the next race and chatted with Rob, Ed, Chris and John till about halfway through the final race and then went home, where Sweetie was waiting for me with food and drink.
I am hopeful that the time I spent at the gym will translate to stronger finishes and better performance on the more technical features of the course. On to next week.