November 19th, 2011 | Published in general
I haven’t been biking much to work lately, but I was thinking today about the MN State Cyclocross Championship. It happened this morning over in Crystal, MN, and the weather was on the brutal side; hovering around freezing in the morning and going down from there, the sleet starting mid-morning changing over to snow before noon.
Three years ago i would have been there too, lining up for one more start. I’ve done many races in the sort of early-season snowfall we had today. Cyclocross has a reputation for a dirty, muddy sport, but in Minnesota it’s a dry, full-gamut weather affair. The season starts with steamy heat and ends with frozen ground, with few idyllic days between. Our autumn is dry and mud is rare. More common is the snow. At this time of year it typically comes down light but sideways, and it’s not a bitter cold, but it sure feels it after being spoiled with 50+ degree sunny days all month. The wind cuts through you, pushing the shiver down to the bone before the starting gun sounds, surrounded by 100 cold bikes, their riders slapping warmth into numbing hands. By the race’s end you’re gasping for air, trying to hold a sane line and keep the wheels down though you can’t feel your fingers or toes, and there’s no hope of winning anything but the slow pokes are still getting in the way. Then a dash for the coat and hat to keep the steamy heat in, and a beer before you’re shivering again and aching for a hot shower.
Funny how removed it seems, having not raced like that for two years now. I miss seeing some of my friends there, but i just don’t have the drive to race like i did then. I remember feeling like i had put my stake into cyclocross, that was my thing, and i was defending it, especially when the ex’s new husband started doing some races too. I was 40 and in middling shape for the field, but it was good shape for me plus i had a bottomless well of baggage and anger to work out. I had great cheerleader friends and so much of my life then revolved around cycling that the races became a fulcrum point, a release, a progress check on how i was doing as a single person again.
In most ways it seems like a good thing to be past those racing days. At the time i needed it to fill in where something was missing, and in a way to prove myself. I’ve never been a driven type-A cyclist, i’m just out for the adventure and the fun. I’m certainly not as fit as i was in racing trim, but i’m happier now, more comfortable with myself. Not hungry and searching, but content and open. Much better.