Today was my last race of the year. It was a very good way to end my season.
The rains of yesterday delivered the mud we'd waited for all season. It wasn'y especially wet or gloppy, and I didn't get a whole ton of it on me or my bike; but it was thick and deep enough in spots to slow everyone down and force many off their bikes on runups most could've ridden in dry weather and so it was good enough.
The course was a modified -- some said watered down -- version of the USGP courses I'd raced the last two seasons. Mercifully, the long opening/finishing straight was chopped into two shorter sections that each led racers back onto the grass and mud in between. I jogged up the run-ups. I suitcased over the one paltry set of barriers near the end of the lap. I managed to keep my bike upright the entire time without crashing -- though I came close a couple of times and actually had to manual my rear wheel onto another line in the mud to regain some traction through a tight corner. My bike handling feels like it has improved a bit each year and I've enjoyed growing with the process.
Bonus: I got the dollar hand-up on my final lap! Yup. Someone stole one of the course marker cones, stuck it in the middle of the course on a tight, muddy turn where everyone was forced to slow way down, and stuffed not one, but three dollar bills in the top. I was so slowed on that corner I nearly stopped, and grabbed the money as I did so. My first ever successful dollar handup. Yesssss!
I finished DFL -- a recurring theme in my season this year, as I never finished out of last place even once, in either discipline -- but I felt stronger and more able to ride up things I know I would've walked up last year. Between that and the number of racing friends who've commented on my weight loss, I know that my work in the weight room has paid off and I will go right back to it later this week. It felt good, exciting even, to feel stronger this year!
This was also Stompy's final cyclocross race. While I will probably race Stompy again next summer in short track -- it's an excellent bike, a nimble climber and great in corners -- for cyclocross it's a virutal boat anchor and I've decided to fiinally upgrade for 2012. I'll be transitioning to a 700c-wheeled bike, built around a Redline Conquest Singlespeed CX frameset. I am hoping the considerably lighter bike will make it easier for me to manage the roadie-centric 'cross courses next fall.
I finished strong, and managed to eke out four laps on a muddy course that confounded some of the roadies and made the mountain bikers grin with delight.
I enjoyed a post-race dinner with friends from Team Slow, Crank and other corners of the race scene. Mielle tried to guilt-trip me about skipping OBRA Champs but failed. Ed wants to get together with me in the early spring to scope out the new pump track that's going in out in mid-county; he wants more off-road time before short-track starts. I rode to and from the restaurant on tired but strong legs, reveling in the motion of the cranks turning and the cold, damp night air as I sped home.
Out of 14 races entered this year I had one DNF (due to asthma and fatigue). I am pleased to have seen some improvement -- maybe not perceptible to anyone watching me, since I still finished dead effing last -- but noticeable to me, and that will have to be good enough. I feel ready for a break, and not terribly sorry to be missing OBRA State CX championships or Kruger's next weekend. It has been a very good season.