Well, maybe not quite that bad. I should give myself a little room; I did no cross races in 2008, only one in 2007 and a grand total of three in 2006, my first season ever. I didn’t expect to move to the head of the race this year, and sure enough I haven’t. In fact, I have yet to find my way to the top half of the pack.
My season so far:
9/20/2009 – A beautiful early fall day at Sucker Brook’s fast course. 59th of 82 in the Cat 4 field. Felt optimistic after finishing my first cross race in 2 years.
10/3/2009 – DNS at Gloucester, due to a major calf strain sustained earlier that week when trying to practice dismounts. Seriously, I couldn’t walk straight. I’m 0 for 2 in even finding my way to the start at the New England World Championships.
10/10/2009 – 45th of 51 at Providence, Cat 4 35+, after dropping my chain on the first lap. Even without that, the technical course presented a big challenge for me.
10/18/2009 – 38th of 51 in the Cat 4 field on a crazy day at Wrentham. Cold rain, mud city and a poor equipment choice caused me to lose all braking force about halfway through the race.
10/31/2009 – 36 of 38 with the Masters 35s at Canton. Good news: race venue just down the street from home. Bad news: racing with really fast dudes. Crashing on the first lap didn’t help.
11/21/2009 – DNF, as I fell victim to the Ruts of Doom in Lowell. I managed to get around all the technical features for three laps, then blew up my front tire and ate dirt on a straight but soft stretch of trail. In my own defense, I wasn’t the only guy who had problems there. Really a shame, as I was running pretty well.
On the bright side, my skills have come a long way. I drilled my remounts until the stutter-step disappeared and I burned circles in the grass while practicing my low-speed cornering. Mostly-decent weather and a nearby park have given me more quality practice opportunities than I’ve found in previous years. All of which has raised my skill level from nonexistent to way below average. And I’ve been fortunate to do more races this year than all previous years combined, despite injury and a small mountian of more productive options for my free time.
I will likely always suck at this, to a great extent. I was not born to be a bike racer, and like the dancing bear, the miracle is that I can do it at all, never mind do it well. But when I roll to the line, clip in and hear “racers, 30 seconds to start,” I get to shrink my world to just the course in front of me, and try to suck a little less on this lap. I might improve, or I might not, but the only way to find out is to go do it.