My racing this past season has been truly unexceptional and it's gotten me down. I work really hard. I spend a significant portion of my life training. I want to do well.
My best results this year: third place in the 1-2-3 field at Leland Kermesse in April and second place in a cat 4 tempo race at the track in August. Both of which I'm proud of - but they aren't nearly enough. Wins: Zero. Zilch. Zed. Upgrade points: 3 (from Leland).
Everything else has ranged from completely undistinguished to absolutely mortifying.
I pinned a lot of hopes on Master's Nationals in early August. And I felt pretty good going in. But it rained and I slid out and crashed in a slippery corner and that was the end of that. Down the drain.
The worst part is that I can't get the negativity out of my head. I don't feel good about my performances and now every training ride is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. My efforts are no longer building blocks to something greater, they are reviled as puny and pathetic. I'm Eeyore.
The Chicago Cyclocross Cup starts on Sunday. I plan to race the series. And I fully expect to be just as mediocre as I was last year - not strong or skilled enough to win, but doggedly placing between fifth and tenth. If I'm lucky -- the Jackson Park women's cat 4 race has SOLD OUT. I'll be racing 49 women instead of 19. I'm really thrilled about this -- I'm so happy that women's racing is taking off! To win THIS race would be *something.* Something I strongly suspect I will never experience. It's crushing. I can't seem to shake off the bitterness and just enjoy it for what it is.
And - despite being solidly unexceptional - I'm still accused of sandbagging in the cat 4s in 'cross! Why would I want to cat up? Yes, I'd have a 45 minute race in the 1-2-3s, instead of the 30 minute cat 4 race, but I'd be back in a field of seven women, DEEP in cat 3 limbo. If they scored the cat 3 women separately, it would be one thing. But racing as hard as I can to finish sixth instead of LAST is nowhere near as much fun as racing in a field of 50 where my hard work allows me to crush half the competition.
On Sunday I raced the ABR Team Time Trial National Championships in lovely Leonore, IL. My TTT teammates from the past two years, Heidi and Eileen were unable to race this year, so I had a whole new team: Mia, who's flying and has been on a winning streak; Courtney, recently returned from riding across the U.S.; and Natalie a strong racer whose work has interfered with her training lately.
We were able to get together to practice only twice. We'd all raced the TTT last year, so we pretty much knew what to do, but we were a bit ragged. The race was in a new spot this year, slightly farther away, so we all arrived behind schedule. And then my rear race wheel decided it was a *great* time to refuse to hold air. But we got ourselves together, pinned our numbers, warmed up for seven to ten minutes and got ourselves to the start on time.
On the line, Courtney leans over and says that she feel awful. I can relate - I'm still stressed out from the scramble and my legs are barely warm and I'm pissed that my race wheel is broken. I reassure her that we'll be OK - we'll warm up quickly in the race. And then the clock counts down and we're off. And Courtney was not lying, she was having one of those devastatingly bad days where your body simply refuses to do what you tell it to. We gapped her. We waited and she caught on and almost immediately she was gapped again. We waited.
Within the first mile, she asked us to go without her. Which meant the three of us left HAD TO finish together - your finishing time is taken from the third rider.
We hauled ass into the headwind and quickly passed the team four minutes ahead of us. That was encouraging. In the tailwind, Mia ramped us up to 30 mph and we sailed along in her wake for minutes at a time. The longest stretches of the race had an unrelenting crosswind. Mia continued to anchor. I would pull through and concentrate on not dropping speed for as long as I possibly could so Mia could rest. Natalie floated at the back, going from my wheel to Mia's wheel, back to mine. Mia, sitting upright on her brake hoods, would haul us into the wind while I crouched in my aero bars, barely clinging to her wheel. She was incredible. And Natalie pulled herself inside out. I gave everything I had, I only wish I had more.
We finished fifth, two minutes off fourth and four minutes off third. Not bad I guess, considering.
I would like to say 'next year we'll have it together! Next year we'll practice and we'll all have aero equipment and we will trounce all the Alberto's and Project 5 girls.' But that's what I said last year. I don't know what will happen. I hope we'll have more success.