Solstice Cross. Wunderground almanac claims it was about 32 degF at start time. That wondrous temperature where things that were previously frozen become less so when just a little heat is added. That wondrous temperature where the cold hard ground below is still frozen. As the sun began to heat the ground after our 11:00 start, the portions of the course in full sun became a slippery mess.
I got a decent start, and was second behind perennial great starter, Kelly C. We navigated our way through the slippery, windy course. It was a fun course, with a section of rollers, several challenging off-camber sections, and LOTS of twisting and turning. At some point during that first lap, I took the lead from Kelly and led much of that lap. Bob R. passed just as we completed the first lap, but the three of us stayed together. I felt great, we'd just finished the first lap and I was feeling strong. As we started the longest descent of the course and just after the roughest part of the course through some sort of dumping grounds, I noticed my rear tire was seriously soft. I fell off the pace a bit as I nursed the bike to the pits. Getting back on course, I didn't know how many spots I'd lost and I got a little panicky. Mike Y and Gunnar S. were here. I could possibly get some good USAC points with a strong finish. And that's, again, where things started to fall apart.
I became far too intimate with terra (far too) firma, and have a few raspberries and bruises to show for it. I went down 4 times trying to make up for the time I'd lost with my flat. I would pass guys and then as I was working to catch the next guy, I'd go down again and lose a spot or two. Two steps forward, one step back. I eventually finished 6th.
After the race, a friend came up to me and said, "The only person you beat today was yourself." I think he meant it in the kindest possible way, especially since he went on to say very flattering things about my fitness. He advised me to "settle down" (sound familiar?) and be more judicious about where to put down that power that I've got. To ride smarter and more in control. Twice in two weeks, I have somebody tell me this. And, if I'm really honest, Mark G. from Massachusetts, gave me similar advice three years ago after we battled in Northampton. Maybe three times is a charm. Maybe now, the advice will start to sink into my thick skull.
[update: Riding home from this morning's workout, the events of the last few days and this post kept swirling through my head. I was reminded how my coach recently told me that I was likely stronger on a watts/kg basis than one of the guys that I really look up to in my age group, but that, given his years and years of competing at a very high level, he is simply more efficient than me. I didn't get this at the time, and maybe I'm still barking up the wrong tree, but in what seems a not so subtle way the universe has perhaps given me a part of the explanation.]
Oh, yeah, and Kelly C. was giving free hugs. So, there's that. And I actually got two!
My family and I are doing a reading and lighting the Advent Candle at church today, so I'll miss the State Championships. Good Luck to all!