They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but it certainly doesn't feel that way when you have a tough race and your demise is advertised mercilessly under the blazing lights of Cross Vegas. Fortunately, or unfortunately, much of the attention goes to the front of the race; fortunately because those folks deserve respect for pulling off a good race under a lot of pressure so early in the season, unfortunately because the attention got a bit misguided in the form of tossing beer and stripper cards. Check out Helen Wyman's articulate account here.
That said, I was uncharacteristically pleased to travel to altitude in Boulder for the next round of races at the US Open of Cross at the Boulder Reservoir and the Boulder Cup at Valmont Bike Park. As Jesse reminded me, "You gotta fight to keep your head above water in those situations," and no matter how many bad days I have, it's amazing how easy it is to feel bummed out by them. So, albeit feeling a bit sheepish, onward it was to the next challenge.
Thursday morning, I stepped out of the air conditioned Trump International to hail a cab to the airport, and sweat had already beaded on my forehead by the time the former Baja 500 winning cab driver pulled up from his waiting spot. On the way, while said cabbie told me of his motorcross days and about his daughter living in South Korea, I casually checked the weather in Boulder:
The contents of my suitcase were woefully inadequate. However, thanks to some clothing donations from our mechanic Taylor and his girlfriend, I bundled up in 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, fleece leg warmers, base layer, jersey and wind jacket.
As you can see by the Garmin mount, I'm still getting the cross packing down this season. In any case, it was September still and way too early to succumb to trainer rides. One of the easiest ways to burn out racing is over-trainer-ing.
It was a nippy 42 degrees complete with a persistent drizzle, but it was worth it to be outside viewing the roadside mini-sunflowers, golden plains spreading out to a backdrop of periwinkle mountains. Lest I get carried away here, the altitude combined with the shocking cold felt abominable, and my legs just would not turn over. After a horrific showing at Cross Vegas I was very tempted to try to "catch up" on training and "get in shape" all in one swoop right then and there via some epic punitive ride. With some inkling there might be some holes in that logic, I did a bit extra openers and called it a day.
Eric and Taylor had the Diamondback Steilacooms all set to go at the Boulder Reservoir, and I was spoiled to have their entire help and the whole set-up to myself as Kerry took the weekend off. These guys kept everything in great shape all weekend.
Without my student sources this year, Taylor promises to step up to keep us old folks in tune with youth lingo, for example "Talking jungle," which means "Shooting the sh**"
In the warm-up, I compared using the 42 and 40 CX1 chainrings, opting for the 40. The course was half fun sand, half grassy turns, with oddly no dismounts the entire circuit. Perhaps the biggest challenge was riding the grass as it felt like having an operating jackhammer for a fork, the ground was so pocked and hard.
I had a decent start and settled into about 4th position with Katie Compton blazing ahead in first and Caroline Mani and Chloe Woodruff forming a chase group. After a bobble ahead, I latched onto Caroline and Chloe's group and we worked together most of the race.
Rachel Lloyd then bridged up as well and those three got a small gap on me; as I was gunning to catch on, I lost focus and crashed in a corner. Gabby Durrin then caught me. I managed to stay ahead into the final technical segments and headed into the final sand section feeling good. "Don't take the bad line!" I told myself, but naturally that's exactly what I did, and Gabby smartly capitalized and finished 5th. Lesson of the Day: I should have used a positive mantra instead, "Take the middle line." Using the negative sabotaged my move; focusing the mind on on the positive is so much more effective!
Back in Valmont Bike Park after having raced the Boulder Cup and Nationals there last year, I was excited for the challenging course with a bit more climbing than the first two rounds of the season. After Nationals, I feel that this is my hole shot to defend, so I did.
Caroline shortly flew by setting a blistering pace, and I followed Meredith Miller behind.
Soon Katie Compton, Chloe, Georgia Gould, and Rachel also passed me.
I battled back and forth with Courtenay McFadden for most of the race, and ended up pulling away in the final technical hilly section to get 7th.
One of the blessings of my leave of absence this year is the ability to have a bit more time on either side of races, and that night I was able to visit with some great friends Moyra and Travis who I had not seen in 13 years, since we all lived together in Honduras. They're incredibly positive and full of energy, they eat gluten-free, and have three cute boys and a cunning hampster by the name of Bob. It was great to reminisce as if it were yesterday that we were teaching in Tegucigalpa, sharing stories about the shifty nurse/handyman Ponce and our favorite get-away B&B run by Germans.
Racing-wise, I'm still not where I want to be, but it's a long season, and it was good to have the cobwebs clear enough to actually feel like I was racing. I won't lie, I'll be very happy to test things out at sea level in Wisconsin next weekend!