Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Photos: Chicago Cyclocross Cup #5 Carpentersville

ChicagoCyclocross Cup #5: Carpentersville

Photos: Chicago Cyclocross Cup #4: Psychocross

Chicago Cyclocross Cup #4: Psychocross

The Long Weekend: Day 2

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to record my racing results as they were happening so the feelings and experiences would be captured in the moment and not distorted by the passing time and subsequent experiences.


It has been almost a month and a half since I have penned anything in this blog, as my racing thoughts have mostly turned into thoughts about all the other detritus that has been washing over me. But I digress.

The last time I wrote was to document the fairly terrible race I had at Psychocross. The result was not terrible, but the experience of racing mid-asthma attack was.

I don't remember much about the Sunday morning before my race as far as the procedural minutia. I am assuming it involved the usual routine of packing clothes, food, and gear, loading the car, and driving to the suburbs.

I do remember that I was carrying a heavy emotional burden. A close friend was supposed to call me on Saturday night and make arrangements so she could accompany me to the race on Sunday morning. She never called, so I was going to the race alone and upset. It was not the first time this happened, so the pain was especially acute.

So I made it to Carpentersville alone in my rented Jeep. The course was much wetter this year than it was the year before, there was actual water running in the stream that cut through the park. The cornfield on the East side of the park was a morass of thick black mud that attached to bikes like clay. I didn't even bother riding through it on my first pre-ride. I saw five guys who broke derailleurs or hangers in the first two races. It was thick and awful, and like no mud I had seen before. On my second pre-lap I bit the bullet and "rode" the entire cornfield maze. I didn't actually ride the whole thing, as I took a strategy that it was better to run slowly than break my bike pre-riding. I then spent the intervening hour trying to clean the thick mud off my bike. There was a hose, but I just used my hand and the creek. It wasn't as effective, but it was better than standing in line. I looked like an idiot, but oh well. It's not the first time.

When it came time to race, I felt pretty good. I was a little bit stiff, and spent some time riding up and down the road to try and work out the stiffness, and because of my strong early season performance I was still called up near the front of the pack. When the race started I surged, and maintained a position with the lead pack, probably in the top 20. Unfortunately I could not hold it. Even in the first lap I felt my legs seizing up. I carried my pre-ride strategy into the first couple laps and ran the corn instead of trying to ride it. I think it did help because my bike was not being pushed into the thick mud, and it was not building up as much. However, as the race progressed the mud dried enough that I rode the mud (or tried to ride) the last few laps.

Although my lungs felt better than the day before, my legs were much maligned and the race went much the same way. I started strong, then faded as others continued to surge past me. I fell from the top 20 to the top 30, to the top 40. As the placing numbers clicked backwards my thoughts drifted from the race I was in to the disappointment I woke into. As the physical pain mounted, the emotional pain complied it. I lost my focus.

In the parlance of Dr James Loehr, (The New Toughness Training for Sports) I failed to maintain my "ideal performance self" and therefore "choked". I tried as much as possible to "correct course" and "re-engage" but, I could not get back into a good mindset for racing, but my body and my emotions would not cooperate. I continued to slide backwards in the field as people who "should not" have been passing me were passing me. Which is to say that the Cat 3 field has a lot of strong riders, and I must have been in really good shape early in the season the first couple races in the season to end up in the top 30. My mileage had decreased, my fitness had decreased, and I ended up once place lower than I had the day before in 37th. It was extra sad because I did so well there the year.

In 2010 I was not planning on racing on Sunday, but found a ride after a very disappointing race (finished 39th) Saturday. I got the hole shot (Someone took a great picture of me leading Bryan Lee around the first big tree), and finished 20th overall. The technical course seemed like it should have favored me, but the straights were long enough, and the ground soft enough that I sunk in, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I bought a new camera this fall so I could spend time taking pictures at races, and on Sunday afternoon it did not even make it out of the bag. I took some pictures of the 30s+ racers in the mud in the morning, but did not take any pictures during any other races. After my race I rushed down to the hose so I could clean my bike off, and instead of staying to be a photographer and spectator for the later races, I packed up my stuff and went home feeling sad, defeated, and like I needed a break from racing.