I, on the other hand, spend my race thinking, “Hmm, I’m thirsty” and “Wow, I didn’t fall off my bike yet.”
My race-thoughts are even more inane than that. I think: “Maybe if I pedal harder, I’ll finish quicker, so then I can get a drink of water sooner. Because I’m really thirsty.” Yes, I spend much of the race trying to convince myself to go faster — and using particularly poor logic, since cyclocross races are for a set amount of time, 40 minutes, so pedalling faster won’t get me to the finish line any quicker. Still, I tell myself it will. I think I can actually go faster, I’m just not in the habit of going faster, so I have to talk myself into it. This is clearly a problem.
This race, I also thought, “Maybe if I pedal faster, that odd motorcycle in the air won’t land on my head.” For some reason, stunt motorcycle-jumping was going on in the middle of the race-course. It was spooky.
I started at the back of the pack, since that’s where I thought I belonged, but then that turned out to mean I just had to pass lots of people. I’m not yet great at passing people. Next time I think I may attempt to start in the middle of the pack, to alleviate some of this passing problem. It may also mitigate the problem of oh-no-the-rider-ahead-of-me-just-fell-over-a-tree-root, better-swerve-around-her. The riders in front of me just kept falling. I think this means I may have finished well ahead of third-to-last.
But my race-thoughts were so inane that, when a fellow Celopacific rider lapped me (the older men’s race goes on simultaneously with my race, Women’s 3/4), it took me a long time to understand why he kept slowing up to wait for me. He kept looking back at me. “Is there another older man just behind me that he’s concerned about?” That’s what I thought, till I finally realized, he was generously coaching me. It took me way too long to figure that out. He had given up hope of placing in his race and decided to shift his strategy to trying to make sure I could place in my race.
I love bike-racing etiquette.
He let me draft off him, when I could reach him. He paced me, urging me faster, for what I think was three whole laps. He told me when we were on our last lap and I should put in all my remaining energy. I had no clue it was the last lap of the race. He told me afterwards that he was trying to help me bridge up to the next woman in my category. I didn’t see her. I think we did pass a couple women, though. But I think they may have fallen over tree-roots.
It seems that my one advantage, as a cyclocross racer, is that I don’t fall on tree-roots. Also, I have an amazing team.
UPDATE: Unofficial race results are in, and I came in 7th out of 15. This is good news, and not only because Ben claims that the top 6 people get to be on the podium (I believe it’s only the top 3). Last time I was third-to-last; this time I was eighth-to-last, and I think that’s a decent improvement.
ANOTHER UPDATE: What I didn’t convey in this post is that racing is surprisingly thrilling. All-consuming, adrenaline-inducing, absolutely-in-the-moment, I-can-see-how-this-becomes-addictive thrilling. I’m starting to understand Ben better. And I’m afraid of my own pride and competitiveness.