I had a rough race at CX Nationals back in January (I'll write about that one of these days) and found my motivation waning afterward. Throw in a re-invigorated love of skiing, as well as my wife's torn ACL, subsequent recovery, and need for chauffeuring, nursing and support, this year's training has been a bit off. In fact, I just looked at Strava for June and I did ZERO training, May was only 19 hours, and July was back up to a somewhat respectable 32 hours.
Needless to say, I was a little nervous about how I'd fare in my first race of any kind since that horrible day back in January. At the start line of the Big Elk race at Fair Hill, my teammate, Mike S., and I chatted about many things as I tried to take my mind off my unease about my current level of fitness and the pain I was about to endure. The one conversation that stuck with me throughout the race though was about tire selection. We were both sporting tires with relatively small knobs. I was on the Maxxis Ikon 2.2 pumped to 25 PSI. It had rained hard the night before the race and the course had a thin layer of greasy mud over relatively firm soil. I felt like I was on ice around many of the corners. I kept thinking, "Stay upright. Especially early. Things will tighten up as the race progresses." This did not happen. Or, at least, not as much as I'd assumed or hoped.
Out of the gate, I was with the top group of 5 or 6. About halfway through the first lap/prologue, my rusty skills and slippery tires caused me to lose contact with the group. I kept fighting to get spots back and hold off other challengers. Wherever the course was moderately technical, I could feel others gaining on me. Wherever it seemed to be a pure fitness section, I was pleasantly surprised that I could pull away. I hit the ground twice; once on a slick wooden bridge after a hard right turn, and once on a fast log over with a muddy "landing" on the other side that I tried to hit with too much speed.
At the end of the day, I was pleased to have finished in 5th place despite my relative lack of training this year. More importantly, I was psyched to re-united with my tribe. It felt good to be back.
Looking forward to #crossseason!