At Hood River on Saturday it was spitting rain but not enough to wet the ground. So the conditions were dusty and gritty. I’m beginning to think mud offers better traction generally, and softens the inevitable crashes.
There were a lot of minor injuries yesterday, almost everyone earned a souvenir. I slid out cornering on gravel, tore open a half-healed scab on my left arm, and ripped up my left hip. Also a couple other, less bloody spills (these happen every week), and a (very) minor mechanical: fouled my chain after the barrier and had to massage it back on by hand. None of these things were race-losing events but together conspired to cost me six or seven places.
(I also got into some blackberries so my lower legs are cut up, but that wasn’t during a race, I was actually spectating at the time. The blackberries hurt worse than the spill.)
I fought tired legs and tired mind the entire race. I made gruesome n00b errors, especially on the singletrack (where I usually do well) — I’d like to blame my new tires, which are better suited for mud, but a poor craftsman blames his tools. My head just wasn’t clear: I lost my sense of placement, so I thought Chris and Thom both passed me. Chris was waiting for me at the finish which doubled the confusion. So I spent most of the weekend feeling I might have been DFL or nearly so.
But I actually placed 18th of 30, my worst showing yet. I was late on the leaders’ lap, so Chris was pulled off before I finished.
In other news: guess who the second-oldest racer was in Cat C? I’ve been avoiding racing Master’s C, mostly for reasons of convenience. The open category has a better start time. Also: losing against 24-year-olds feels better than losing against other 40-year-olds.
We spent a lot of time on the drive back to Portland talking about why do we do this?. There is always a point during a race where I feel like quitting, and also a point where it feels like the most fun I’ve ever had. (On this race, ironically: it was recovering from my gravel wipeout.) Bicycle racing (in Portland, in 2011) also serves the same social purpose as maybe bowling or softball once did. Anyone who laments “Bowling Alone” has never been to a ’Cross race.
That I of all people have taken up a competitive endeavor is especially vexing. I never followed sports, heck I can’t even get into pro bike racing and I do it myself.. I can’t tell you who won the Tour de France without the help of Google. I was also never a personally competitive person, much to the chagrin of my swim coaches. I just never cared much whether I won or lost.
No mystery to me where I got this attitude: other than my seventh-grade year I was always one of the smallest kids in my class. Asthma, heart murmur, allergies, and giant pop-bottle glasses all marked me as “nonathletic” — and if you can’t win, why try? For a six- or seven-year old boy, that’s powerful tonic. It’s easy to accept always getting picked last if you never win anyway.
But now that I’ve finally latched onto a sport — at age forty, ha! — that I actually don’t entirely suck at, self-defeat is perpetually disappointing: I never leave it all on the course. Chris said he can’t get more out of his legs, I said I feel like I’m not asking my legs to give everything. Jenny said I should just ask more of my legs but it’s hard to make the poor little fellas suffer like that. And what if I try really hard and still lose? (See also: “why I don’t race Master’s C,” above.)
Anyway, even losing is fun; at the very least “losing at a sport I’m really good at” is kind of a new sensation for me.
My body is just shredded right now, inside and out. Sore from crashes — not just this Saturday, but an accumulation of bruises from all my training and MTB rides — and tired from overwork. Every Monday for the last month I’ve told myself: “this week is a recovery week,” but this week I mean it