Things I remembered to do this week:
a. eat lunch early enough to digest most of it by 4 pm.
b. pack a gel for pre-race (to be taken with plenty of water) and snacks for post-race.
c. actually drink the water before, during and after the race; and eat the snacks after the race.
d. stretch before my race, and briefly afterwards; then stretch more slowly and for longer period after riding home.
Things that didn't help me this week:
a. going out "clubbing" twice in one week with Sweetie (but hey, she got us on the comp list for two shows by bands we absolutely love, so it was tough to say no). Both nights saw bedtimes well past 11 pm, which is generally bad for me.
b. The course was definitely tougher in some aspects tonight, especially because the rhythm sections were run in reverse of last week -- meaning that the berms got progressively higher instead of lower and it was tough to build momentum. You simply had to power your way through the two sections and it hurt. A lot. I just ran out of gas (and breath!) and I was forced to get off my bike at least four times during my race to push my bike up the final berm in a given pass.
c. I really felt the dust and the pollen in the air this week, which meant I was gasping for breath more and had to pull off twice to use my inhaler during the race. Disappointing.
d. I have decided that it is intimidating to be followed so closely behind by the "sweep" rider (usually a younger, stronger fellow whose job it is to sweep the course until the lapping of the slowest racers by the fastest ones begins in earnest). Nice fellow was riding my ass all the way through the first lap and it secretly bugged the crap out of me -- not because he was rude or anything, in fact he was a perfect gentleman -- but because it reminded me of how [bleep]ing slow I am. He finally pulled off and I was left alone to suffer.
e. the barrier they added after the start lap was completed by the field; this consisted of two large square sections of 8x8's laid side by side, with the course laid out so you had to go over them. Most racers simply rode over them, manualling their bikes over the barrier like it was a very wide log. I knew that I would probably not be successful and did not want to risk damaging my bike (low parts budget) or myself (lower healthcare budget), so when I saw the barrier I instinctively dismounted cyclocross-style and ran my bike over it, re-mounting on the other side before pushing myself hard up a short, steep off-camber curve and back onto the moto course. I got some good-natured crap from my friends for running over it, but my rear rim and tire are both intact tonight and that is fine by me. I watched a few folks drop their chains and/blow out tires at that spot in the next race and know I did the right thing. (Someday I will figure out how to manual over a log on the fly without clipless pedals.) Meanwhile, recognizing that the decision and action to dismount cross-style came so instinctively felt like another tiny victory for me, a reminder of growth in experience if not in actual prowess and speed. This is what it's like inside the mind of a really slow bike racer: the nano-victories mean a lot more.
Things that helped me in spite of myself:
a. the ten pounds I lost over the winter by working out. It's a little easier to get my ass up those berms when my ass doesn't weigh quite as much as it did last year.
b. The increased strength in my legs, also a result of working out and noticeable even when I was forced to dismount; a few times I was able to will myself to jog rather than walk up the berm, a first for me. This increased leg strength is a total revelation for me, utterly amazing, even as I continue to finish DFL in my races (something I expect to do through the series; it's good to remain realistic and simply ride your own race in these situations).
c. The cheers of several teammates and other racing pals from various spots around the course. There is nothing like hearing your name called out in genuine encouragement during a bike race. It really does help.
Wednesday I'm planning to head out to the Mt. Tabor road races to cheer my teammates who will be racing Cat 5 Men and the Fixed gear races. I'll see if the additional and careful stretching prevents the extreme soreness of last week's post-race days. meanwhile, although it is disappointing to finish last again, I must remember that I am finishing last in a singlespeed category against women who are all younger and faster than me. I'm mostly okay with that, but part of me wants to learn more about training over the fall and winter to see how much more I might do next year. I would prefer to keep racing singlespeed than to have to come up with the money to build up (and space to store!) a geared mountain bike. As far as I'm concerned my bike is just fine. I am already thinking about how I can grow more. I would love to not finish last in every race, and maybe someday I can make that happen.