Monday night, my short-track season ended with a laugh and a smile.
I had put everything into my race on Saturday, knowing it might leave me feeling diminished on Monday.
Then my period roared into town Monday morning.
(Gentlemen: get over it. Women get these, and you don't; but if you did they'd affect your performance, too. Oh, no? BET me.)
I felt tired and slow all day, and knew that just finishing Monday's race would have to be enough.
The course was suitably fun for the closing night, a technical relief after Saturdays flat-fest; and finally included a reasonably exciting drop-down from one of the berms, the first real one of the season. Back and forth over the whoopdees and through the rhythm sections, each lap dustier than the last and me getting slower and slower. I even inhaled a huge tuft of cotton wood fluff floating through the air, causing me to hack like a smoker through a fourth of a lap until it cleared. I struggled to get up the tallest berms (remember these are designed for motorcycles), and had to get off and walk twice. No matter. After 25 minutes of dusty, crazy racing, I heaved myself up and across the finish line in a final burst of frenzied pedaling and turned in three incredibly labored laps (I'm guessing they'll call the first one a start lap and not count it for anyone) on the warmest evening of the series.
Sweetie came and cheered for me from the backside bleachers, waving the team sign and yelling her considerable lungs out. Although I was drained, I blew kisses at her each time I went by. She has been to nearly every race of the series to cheer me and my teammates on. It has made all the difference for me, and I will really miss hearing her at cyclocross races this fall and winter.
Just finishing was good enough to keep me firmly in fourth place overall for the series -- one off the podium, but also one spot better than I did last year. Teammate and pal Kristin made the podium with third place overall (another medal for Team Slow!), and thanked me later for agitating and organizing for a category she could win something in, which made me smile so damned hard. I hugged friends from various teams, and thanked Shane and Mielle for all their encouragement. I didn't stick around the for the end of the schwag giveaway; when you work in the bike industry the last thing you need to bring home is More Schwag. Instead, I opted to leave a little early, ride all the way up to Red Fox pub and get us a table. I left ahead of my teammates, but most of them actually beat me there (no big shock or anything -- in spite of my racing success I am still dreadfully slow). Still, I was glad for the long ride up N. Denver and time spent drinking and eating with friends.
Most delicious of all: the cooling night air as I rode home, on nearly-empty streets at almost midnight. Nights like these on a bike are simply the best, and I suspect I won't have time to enjoy too many more before work and the weather conspire to send me indoors sooner. But OH! the feel of cool night air on sweaty skin, rolling along at a gentle 10 miles an hour while shadows play in the darkened trees and I play back in my mind the exuberant final evening, and my whole summer season of racing, well, THAT is simply golden.
A beautiful end to my short-track adventures for the year.