On Sunday, September 14 I did something that I haven’t done since 2012. I raced my cyclo-cross bike. Boy oh boy was it ever fun. It was damn hard as well, but most importantly it was fun. I woke up at around 2 a.m on Sunday morning with a gnawing feeling in my stomach, I initially thought I was hungry – nope nervous.
Nervous as in a little bit freaked out. By the time the alarm beeped and I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m., my mind was in race mode. I was rethinking my race bag. Reviewing what I had planned to wear for the race. Thinking about water bottles. And trying to mentally rehearse cornering, descending, sprinting, and barrier technique. Yes, I was a bit of a nut (but in a good way).
The pre-ride, the cheering for the first race, the catching up with long-time friends, the racing, the race recap afterwards, the cheering on of Marc and the other guys in the third race and then the course tear-down were just so special. I know it was simply a local cyclo-cross race. But for me it was something else. I felt so very comfortable out there. It was so meaningful to be pre-riding and just feeling like I was in the “groove”. There were no thoughts of not being good enough, of not being fit enough, of not really belonging – nope I felt at home.
I attribute this to the people that make up the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series. I’m guessing that in other races, one often doesn’t hear on the start line “wow, great to see you out here”, “I’m really happy you’re at the race”, or afterwards “you looked great out there”.
The race was a good hard one. With a lumpy course that featured two tough climbs (one which I had to walk/power hike/drag myself up), some fun switch backs, a wee pile of sand, a very lumpy grass section (my favourite section), fast barriers and a speedy little descent (on which I managed to blow the line and ride completely off course over some rather menacing rocks) – there was nowhere to hide.
I was super impressed with the caliber of women (and the amount) who lined up on Sunday. There are some very speedy ladies racing in this series who can really put the hammer down. I was in the back (quite far back really) but that’s okay. I’m not riding much at all, I’ve finally built up to three rides a week (one of these being the ‘cross race), so suffering would be the theme for me at Calabogie. It was very different to be racing in my local series without hours and hours of training in my legs and soul – I felt a strange sensation of just relaxing into the moment. This might sound cheesy but if you knew how much pressure I used to put on myself to have a good ride (particularly when racing at home) then you would understand how and why Sunday’s race was so different for me.
My only goal going in was to be exhausted at the end. I can definitely say I was. I was happy to be lapped (yes, lapped) – this meant I didn’t have to drag myself up those two hills again nor across the lumpy grass again. The rest of the day was a bit of a write-off – I was that tired. An attempted nap in the late afternoon was made rather uncomfortable thanks to the rapid onset of ‘cross gut (do not eat that peanut butter bar with your post-race lunch – you will regret it…) – so instead I sat and tried to gather up some energy to do more than read Twitter accounts of Mike Woods’ amazing race at the GP Montreal.
Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross, you’ve stolen my heart and I’m happy to let you have it. Thanks for giving me a place to be on Sunday mornings. I didn’t realize how much I missed you. Let’s not ever be apart like this again.