Although I was only racing the 35+ B's and not eligible for a district championship I was still psyched for this race since it represented the peak of my 13 week late season block of training. One thing I decided to work hard on halfway through this season is being less emotional in my racing. From what I've read there's the concept of being a "tilt" player in poker. Emotions get the best of a person -who knows better- leading to lapses in strategy and smart tactics. Result? Loserville.
When I found out about this concept it made me realize I end up racing on tilt all too often. It can be a comment from a competitor, a perception that the race is not fair (external locus of control anyone???) or that your competitors "must be sandbagging" or are riding unsafely. The result is stupid racing, lack of concentration, ridiculous behavior.
So I studied a little and it really helped to re-learn the definition of mental toughness. But mostly I just resolved to be more of a rock during races and not let the emotions tilt me. How have I done? I can say I've improved but I still could be a little more calculating and race smarter. San Ardo is a good example of needing to continue improving (though I still say riding for 60 miles just to sprint is LAME). But the last two cyclocross races were really good examples of how I've developed some ability to brush off either bad luck (two bad crashes in the space of about 40 seconds) or loudmouthed competitors. I think I still have to concentrate and remind myself but I like this taste of an improved mental game.
I didn't expect to have to apply it 100% at CCCX, however.
|Sometimes CX means racing against guys who had to borrow their sister's skinsuit for the day...|
After an okay (not great, still need to be more aggressive) start I was running somewhere between 7th and 10th wheel. I was following another rider who was faster than me in the open but slower in the technical stuff so we had a good race going and passed a few guys together. On the long section before the runup he got away a bit and I was behind another rider when we hit the sand at the bottom of the hill on the second lap. The guy ahead went down! (note to that guy, shift your weight BACK) I mostly avoided him but the sand grabbed my wheels. I stepped over the handlebars just fine but my bike augured into the sand.
|Top of the runup.|
By the time I stopped for a third time with no real result I was passed by pretty much the entire field and was really cursing my bad luck. I finished the lap and dug into the third. I decided to just spin whatever random gear I had and just get the best race workout possible. After half a lap or so I started passing guys from my race. So then I decided to keep racing and just do the best I could and, lo and behold, I caught a few more guys. By the last lap my chain had slipped into a 42-25 gear and that was good enough to feel kind of up to speed. I kept digging in and enjoyed the same legs and focus as the Folsom race. I caught three more guys from my race on that lap and, in a moment of poetic justice that I couldn't invent, caught the guy that crashed me out on the last turn before the straightaway. I spun my cranks and held him off.
I felt a little lame sprinting for a backmarker place but I was in competitor mode (a victory by itself given the rotten luck).
I ended up 11th of 20. It's rare to feel that satisfied finishing in the bottom half of a field but I did. Yes, I was super-bummed to have great legs and have the bike be the deciding factor for my placing but on the other hand, I was able to stay off tilt and just find my focus and keep racing. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks afterall.
PS The sand destroyed my brifter. Now I don't have a working cyclocross bike. I may call it good and end the CX season there. But I seem to still have decent fitness so I may do one more race and just use my mountain bike (boo! hiss! uncool!).
|All these pictures come courtesy of the great Stephen Woo http://www.flickr.com/photos/swoo/.|