I love Gloucester cross, the quintessential New England race weekend. Fierce international competition, screaming fans, never a dull moment.
We raced in a 'Nor Easter on Saturday then donned the shortsleeved skinsuits the next day. I love it.
Well, okay. The snow and mud I liked. But I admit I didn't enjoy the hypothermia that pretty much killed my race on Saturday. With a little more than a lap to go, it all went to hell for me. I was sitting pretty around 12th place, but knew I would have to defend it with everything. I couldn't deliver. I made all the mistakes in the book and got passed by 4 girls. I think my core temp got low enough that my body kind of went into survival mode. I actually started hyperventilating. I couldn't brake or shift because my hands were frozen rocks. Shifting worked unreliably at best with my fisted hand banging against the lever. Visibility was nil, and as Shopgirl said it best, my feet were so cold "I felt like I was running on my ankles!" When I crossed the finish line, I collapsed on my handlebars and shook, hyperventilating, and incohesive.
Kneewarmers aren't so warm when it's 33 degrees out and they're stuck to you, soaking wet. Neither is a skinsuit. I did have my favorite long-sleeve Craft base layer on, but even that couldn't keep me going. I shouldn't complain, though, because I heard that after my race, 3 women went to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia, one in an ambulance. I was just REALLY COLD. They wereDEATHLY COLD.
Sunday was awesome. The churning 'nor Easter spun off into the Atlantic, parting the clouds and leaving crystal skies. The inches of snow melted the ground into mud, which drained and dried a little by the afternoon races. The course was fast and fun.
I started in a perfect position in the second row. At the gun. I shot between the girls in front of me and charged 5th up the road. I lost a little in the first few turns, a mistake that's becoming a habit for me now, and after passing a group of 3, I ended up in 9th place through the first lap, watching the "big girls" just a few seconds ahead of me. I felt tired and feared cracking. I defended my position until a lap and a half, when I cracked. My bike also stopped shifting properly, and I had a hard time getting in my mud infested cleats. I went for a bike exchange, knowing that I would probably concede one place to the strong NE rider just a few seconds behind me. I couldn't catch her, I felt I had nothing left to burn. Thankfully I only had to ride my awful pit bike for 1/2 a lap.
After that I got caught. :( It was the two of us, alone, for the last lap. I was spent, but I could tell she was as well. I remembered that I out sprinted her twice this season at cx finishes, but knew I couldn't take that for granted in the least. Besides, I was so tired, and one mistake could open a gap I might not have the legs to close. It came down to the chicane before the road finish. She passed me coming into it, but I knew I had to be the first coming out of the 180 degree corner after that section. I glued myself to her wheel through the off-camber chicane, but she went high coming out of it, and I cut the shorter distance, going underneath her, surging ahead and hitting the 180 first. I was where I wanted to be, but realized, DAMN! It's a long way (uphill) to the finish from here!!
I gunned it, clunking gears and all, up the hill. The sun cast our shadows upthe road and I saw her lurching shadow beside mine, creeping closer. I went as hard as I could, leaving nothing behind. My heart rate was as high as I ever see it. I beat her by a foot, totally spent. For the first time ever, I actually heaved over my handlebars when I stopped. I was nauseous for at least an hour.
I finished 13th. A great result for me at a Grand Prix race. To put this weekend in perspective, I finished 27th and 29th at these two races last year. Now I'm knocking on the top ten's door. I can't wait for nationals. I just hope I can last without cracking... I've felt so tired, and I really need to focus on recovery. I want to travel and go to big races... can I last and continue to progress?