Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Life as Pack-Fill

Why did I do it? "Today in the middle of Ohio twenty-eight adult men wear spandex and line up for the start of a C race. It means nothing..." my mind would repeat as a mantra to soothe the nerves. But there I was at the Alum Creek cross race, feeling a bit between Christmas morning and a visit to the dentist.

I've never raced before. I usually ride alone out of caution (since I find myself often enough on the pavement I am guessing my company doesn't prefer misery) and haven't had many group rides. Days before my mind would rattle off nightmare scenarios — sometimes involving public humiliation and a set of barriers sometimes and accident where someone else would be injured.

So the gun went off and away we went and suddenly on a narrow grassy race course I was ride three abreast approaching a sand barrier. It was insane. The grass was so bumpy and everything was happening so fast. The sand came. Everyone jumped off their bikes (no one tried to ride, or maybe they did and failed causing a traffic jam). After the sand I was courteous and gave this guy "the hole shot" to some single track along the beach. Later in the first lap I was still courteous and let a guy ahead of me. About thirty seconds later it happened...

I realized I could ride faster. Perhaps it was the adrenaline. The novelty wore off and I began to feel comfortable. My legs began to pump and I maniacly advanced through the field. All the fears about less-than-flawless bike handling and lack of technique were pushed aside as my nervous caution became a near hazardous quest for places. There were times I was barely on the bike — the mud and sand clogging my cleats as I charged through obstacles. At one point I shifted to the big ring to hammer through the pavement to make up time and I had pedaled the entire lap in that ring. I felt like I would puke.

And then after a few laps I settled in. I was surrounded by riders who's lap times were similar to mine although we had particular strengths that would make the gaps between us ebb and flow. The adrenaline wore off a bit and I paced myself so I would not "pop". At the end of the day I placed ninth out of the twenty-eight riders. I was lucky.

Here are the results!

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