Camp Sloper held it’s annual cyclocross race to a warm, bright autumn day during peak foliage season here in New England. Sloper is in Southington, CT and getting there didn’t take long, providing you have a trusty Mapquest App on your smart phone. I got there with ample time–I am finally getting the timing down on these races and know that it isn’t outrageous to arrive 3 hours before the start of your race.
The day before I had spent in the Ronald Reagan Airport in DC, stuck while I waited for the airline to get us another plane. I had come off a week of traveling, no workouts, and poor diet. I was really tired and felt thin in my attempt to do most things. Get dressed, pack the car, have breakfast–all took deliberate effort. I was deeply fatigued but had registered and it was such a beautiful day, I decided to push on in the hopes that I would rally, as I often do.
The rally never came for me. The course had very minor elevation changes (almost none) and no barriers. There was a steep, slightly muddy climb with a hairpin at the crest, a sandy beach with a stair run up, and a sand volleyball court as obstacles. There was a section of woodchips which were more treacherous than they looked, and some small loose gravel areas. But you really only had to dismount once a lap for the stairs. Otherwise if you had the power and the sand gods were on your side, you could just ride through.
I took my place in the back with the other Cat 4 women. I delayed the entire race by accidentally pinning my number upside down, and the woman next to me re-pinned it for me (thank you!) A rookie move for sure, I laughed it off and the other women seemed to take my mistake in good humor (I hope so anyway).
Then we started. I didn’t feel good from the start, but I know the first lap can mean a lot and I pushed what I had, which wasn’t much. I managed to pass the woman in front of me, then she me, and then we played cat & mouse for the next 2 laps. Then I was done. What little energy I had slipped away so quickly–I felt transparent. I tried to hold off another woman who was downright chipper. She was chatty and conversational and rode with me a bit. I appreciate her because she was friendly and puts things in perspective….and I didn’t really mind when she finally pushed past me.
I had a spill too. My pedals were sticking and my cleats were also filled with sand. I got in on one side before a small climb but could not clip into the other. I lost momentum and fell over. Then tried to unclip when on the ground with no leverage. I struggled on the ground, twisting the bike away from my foot to unclip, get up and run through the mess I was in. Sand was a first for me and boy you need to choose your path carefully. I think there is an art to it but some spots just seemed to snag you. The sand was a major time and energy suck. It drains you quickly.
Then I was alone for the last 3 laps. And when I say alone–I was ALONE. I saw the chipper woman a few times in front of me but by the last lap she was out of sight. I saw NO ONE behind me. I thought for sure I was last. All I had in my head was to finish the damn thing and go home. As much as I wanted to “turn it on” there was nothing to turn….nothing in the legs, no strength at all.
I finished and headed back to my car and kind of crashed. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I tried to eat something. I drank and coughed and sneezed and sat for a bit to try to collect myself. I thought about driving away immediately. But then I thought I should check results and snap a few pictures so I did.
When home, I got progressively worse. This happens to me sometimes after a big event and effort. I get really sick. Headache, nausea, and stomach fall out. This is the 4th time it has happened, and I have been very careful this year to eat and drink correctly before during and after these events. From the week I had prior, I think my system was just off its game. And with no one sticking a bottle of Gatorade in my hand and telling me to drink, I probably wasn’t getting enough hydration. It was a rough reminder that I need to be careful about hydration and nutrition.
Additionally, I checked my numbers on Strava. I could not believe my average MPH. I am capable of faster speeds by 2-3 MPH on courses with more elevation and physical barriers. On this day I was SLOW. How I felt for the whole race was right there in the numbers.
All day yesterday was pretty shot for me as a result. And I admit for a good part of the day, I was feeling so sick I thought “This isn’t worth it.” But now that I’m feeling a little better (still fighting something I think, but better than yesterday), I’m thinking that I need to end of a high note. I have 3 more races I’m seriously considering. The 2 days at Northampton and then Hop Brook back in CT. That should give me a few more opportunities to finish strong for the year.
PS–Results are in and I was not last. There looks like there were again, issues with the final numbers. The first results showed out of 15 women I was 12th (I took a photo of the handwritten results at the race). Official results from crossresults.com show I was 13th. I’m not sure what the issue was but it hardly matters. I had a bad day and could have done better. Not by much but better. Next time….
More Photos Here of the Men 35+: