I recently completed my journey to the land of crit racing and found the bottom of my barrel (I'll get to this part in a bit). I flew into Saint Louis two Fridays ago and joined the lovely ladies of the FCS-Zngine p/b Mr. Restore squad in a cozy brownstone home with contemporary updates. Our hosts were beyond fantastic. They came to our races, they made us dinner and snacks, they took us out on the town and to the farmers market, they let us snuggle with their cute and tiny canines, they were always up for good conversation and good desserts. We really lucked out, Thanks to Robbie and Beth for their kindness and opening their home to us!
The Gateway Cup crits did not disappoint. The courses were fun and fast, the fans came out in flocks, and the weather was hot and humid. Although we didn't quite nail the results we were searching for, we raced hard and aggressive and tried all our hands. Bike racing doesn't always give you what you want, but it's always worth fighting for.
Our final Gateway Cup crit was on Labor Day, a Monday, and the following Tuesday four of us (Mango, Anna, Rachel, and myself) piled in the van with about a billion bikes strapped to the top and a whole monster-pile of wheels stacked precariously in the back, looming over me while I made a cozy nest on the bench seat. I was certain they would all topple down on my head while I was in dreamland, but I'm glad I was proven wrong. Good job staying put, wheels.
However, not to disappoint, I did manage to punch myself in the face and give myself a fat lip while I was aggressively searching for something in my duffle bag. That was the first and last time I hope to punch myself in the lip.
On our journey from the middle to the eastern edge of the country, we paused for a few days just outside Chattanooga Tennessee to stay with the future mother-in-law of the lovely Anna Sanders. We stayed here until Friday and we were spoiled again by our generous and warm hosts. We were fed copious amounts of food and told to just make ourselves at home and eat everything, so we did and it was lovely.
Where we stayed was also only a few miles from Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. On Wednesday, the other gals didn't feel like riding so I ventured into the park by myself. It was late in the afternoon and just a little overcast. The sprinkles of water from the clouds were a welcome relief from the incredible humidity and high temperatures. I wasn't even close to needing the rolled up rain shell I stuffed in my middle pocket, but it was there, just in case.
The tiny roads weaved through the park and there were monuments high and low. It was subtly eerie and there were moments where I felt like the only person on earth. I quite enjoyed my little solo spin and even stopped to read some placards and gain some insight into the history of the land surrounding me. I even found a little bit of gravel to play on, the adventures seemed endless.The following two days we did our rides in the park as well and spotted lots of deer and wild turkeys.
We went into downtown Chattanooga for Rachel's birthday evening and it was beautiful and filled with nice shapes. We wined and dined and the sky gave us the best treat of all, a vivid orange and pink sunset that a photo could never capture truthfully, but we took some nonetheless, because that's what we do these days, snap pics with our smarty phones so we can remember all the moments for all of time.
Also, there is some of the best public art I've seen in the sidewalks in the arts district. Brass sillouettes of feet with numbers and arrows, silently teaching you and your partner the basics of several dance moves. Mango and I were sure to test them out, except for 'The Kiss' we already know we are masters of that move :)
We loaded up the van once again, precarious pile of wheels and all, and finished the last leg of our journey to High Point, North Carolina, a city known for it's extensive furniture manufacturing and show rooms. This is where we raced the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship, ate crepes, and where I met my demise.
I had raced well and done my jobs for the team in St Louis and was really looking forward to racing crit nats and putting up a good finale performance to help the FCS squad get a result to write home about. Unfortunately, I missed the mark, but I learned some good lessons. My body was feeling pretty crumby for a few days, but I always think that if I don't say it out loud it will go away. So I didn't say anything to the team and, in my defense, I've experienced a less-than-perfect feeling body before and been able to pull out great races, it just hurts even more than usual, and I was definitely ok with pain. I was prepared to suffer as hard as I needed to, anything to get the job done.
So I learned the hard way that this doesn't always work. From the gun, I got the chills. It was 95 degrees out and I was wondering how it got so cold. This was something I had only experienced on really long climbs in road races before and I knew it wasn't good. But mind over matter. Sometimes I feel terrible for the first 30-40 minutes and then my body comes around and I feel like a race car. So I drank four bottles (they started given feeds), ate some chomps, and suffered hard to stay in the back half of the field. I was using way too much energy and not doing a damn thing to help the team. I tried every trick I knew to get to the front, but my body told me to eff off and just over an hour into the race, the elastic snapped and I found myself dropped in a crit. In the last race of my season. Dammit.
1. Optimism doesn't always fool your body. If you've been feeling kinda shitty for a few days, you should at least tell your roomie/teammie before the big race you're about to do so you don't have to tell her on the road that you feel like you're about to die and your whole team is wondering where the hell you are and why you're not doing a damn thing
2. eat lots of salt. Drink it and eat it. If it's going to be hot and even if you've had lots of water to drink, you probably haven't eaten enough salt. So just eat more. Take salt shots or eat potato chips or something ***I am not qualified to tell you what to eat and I think you need other things besides just salt, so take it with a grain of ..........
3. suck less. I for sure don't want to ever DNF a crit due to being dropped again, first and last time at my first (and hopefully NOT my last) National Championship, eeps. I will refer to lessons 1 and 2 and all the other lessons I've ever learned to ensure this doesn't happen again.
4. even if you suck at the race, photographers sometimes still make you look like a bike racer #thatsmileisnotasmile
Are you bored of hearing my excuses for sucking? I am so let me tell you that the other ladies raced super well. The only good part about being on the sidelines for the last 25 minutes was that I got to watch the rest of the FCS squad race (minus Rachel, who had suffered a similar fate as me and had retreated to cool herself down with cold water). Amber wasn't feeling great before the race either, but she managed to do a boatload of work on the front reeling in a late and dangerous attack. That's what former world champions do, they just crush it. Erika went in a move and was holding good position all race. Amy was holding focus and position well. Anna was looking tough as nails. Mia Mango looked cool, collected, and ready to pounce before she got caught in a crash inside three to go, ending her race along with the likes of Tina Pic, Allison Powers, and a handful of other powerhouses. Our top team result was in the group sprint delivered by Amy, 6th place, no higher and no lower than last year and a solid result in a respectable field. I am so proud of this team!
I don't really feel like getting all reflective on the entire season so I will just say I had an effing blast, learned a ton, had some great races, had some not-so-great races, and still love it all. I am looking forward to the opportunities that await me next year and I am STOKED to start putting in the work to get better, stronger, faster, taller? But first, I have a break, no racing for a couple weeks and lots of Zippy the Scoot time. It's a rest chunk, they call it, so I will have to fill my days with all the projects!
Huge high fives to these folks, I couldn't have done a darn thing this season without them:
Hosmer Chiropractic Health - your one-stop-shop for everything good for your body!
HiFi Sound Cycling Components - get some speedy wheels while your at it
Veloforma Bicycles - strong supporters of womens cycling making pretty race machines
Thanks for stopping by, have an adventurous day!