As most of you know, I'm a track cyclist. I love banked left-hand turns, one gear and no brakes. So this year, when I decided to mix things up a bit and give cyclocross a whirl, I was just as surprised as some of you.
For those of you unfamiliar with cyclocross - it couldn't be more different then track. Besides having multiple gears, brakes and nobby tires, you also throw in dirt, barriers, run ups, and pain. Lots of pain. 45 minutes of pain. But it's "fun" and the fastest growing cycling discipline right now. It's like the obstacle race craze that has swept the country, except on bikes.
My first race was in the Springs. Tell me who wouldn't continue racing after smashing your 35+ competition? Yeah, I sand bagged, I suppose. But we all start somewhere and being in a nonthreatening, supportive field sounded good to me!
Armed with confidence but lacking skill, I signed up the following weekend for the Valmont course in Boulder in the women's open category. Unseasonably warm temperatures and the race lying within the "Boulder Bubble" meant that more then 30 women showed up. I managed 15th or so, boosting my confidence. Cyclocross makes the intensity of the effort easy to forget and beer that night taste even better.
A week later, I signed up for Tough Girls in Golden, Colorado. On a bumpy, grouchy course in 95 degree heat, I placed dead last. Payout went 5 deep and I was 6th. Adding insult to injury, my inner demons of doubt reared their ugly heads and I drove home with my tail between my legs. Or rather, my tires deflated.
I know better though, especially in this sport. Failures are inevitable, victory is fleeting and lessons galore. The next week: another opportunity on a different course.
Buena Vista, Colorado is surrounded by the Collegiate Range of multiple 14ers and freckled with golden Aspens. The views alone are worth the 2 hour drive. But I had a score to settle.
This time I decided to try something new. Instead of approaching the race with open expectations and accepting what happens no matter what, I was coming in with low expectations. Five girls registered, and payout went 5 deep. Either way I'm in the money. Win-win. Boom.
The whistle blows and we're out of the gates like a pony stampede. By the first technical section we've dropped one girl already. Score! The girl in front of me bobbles and I pounce, charging past her on a hill she un-clips on. Head down, power on I'm chasing hard to catch the next girl. We yo-yo. And I'm in no man's land. Approaching the barriers the fourth time, I lose it. Tired from the effort, I fall hard. I get up immediately and thank my lucky stars no one witnessed it. And then I see him. The husband of a rider and he's cheering me on. I laugh, thinking I got away with that stumble in private. Nope. I should have curtsied. At this point the leaders are way out of reach and I roll in for 3rd.
Gas and entry fee back in hand, I head home armed with a plaque and a smile knowing I accomplished two things. First, I left a great impressions with the hubby and in the dirt. And second, sometimes you should set low expectations just to surprise yourself.