Susan A. raced under the lights for Cross of the North. Just take a peek at those shoes and you can decide the conditions on the course that night!
Today’s (or rather tonight’s) race was under the lights and in the mud. I have raced at night once before, but that course was dry, so tonight’s conditions brought an extra challenge. I was well prepared for this race as I had everything I needed including a headlamp. The sun has been going down around 6pm and my race started at 7:30pm, so getting dressed in the dark required patience, which is sometimes hard when those race nerves start kicking in. But I did a great job of remaining calm and the whole process reminded me of camping.
After warming up on my trainer, chomping down on some scones and a triple shot of espresso, I hopped on my race bike to take a few laps on the road. It was hard to see anything or anyone, especially those wearing their all black “ninja” skinsuits. There was a full moon, but it was hiding under the thick layer of clouds. I head over to the start line to find out that my race is delayed, because several lights on the course have blown out. The officials are in the process of getting cars parked next to the course so the headlights can provide some light.
My focus for this race is to test out my new tubular wheels and to have a strong start. The whistle blows and we are off and I can’t get my left foot clipped in, it’s frustrating… it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve had this problem, I say to myself, but maybe I’m overthinking it, just like swinging a golf club, the more one thinks about hitting the ball the more likely one will miss it.
Anyway, I move on from that and focus on the race. Is it difficult to see? Yes, at times, but I think that is a good thing because it narrows one’s focus to the task at hand, and removes some of the distractions from seeing the entire course. On the first lap, I get hung up behind a few racers, but I was able to pass them when I chose to ride through the mud bog while they ran it…I didn’t want to get my shoes dirty 🙂
And so far I’m loving my tires and wheels, but as the race continues and the mud gets caked on, my front wheel starts acting strange. For some reason I think that it’s the mud causing the problem. (after the race I realize the problem was actually a flat tire) so I reach my hand over the handlebar, configure my fingers in an upside down peace sign and place them on either side of my tire to get the extra mud off. I do this several times and then decide maybe I should switch to my pit bike? I start having an internal dialog, debating whether or not I should. I finally decide to swap bikes. The pit is right next to the big mud bog and I know will have to ride a portion of it before I can go into the pit zone.
A bit distracted and not focusing on the best line in the mud, I go down, sliding across the mud. I get up, grab my bike, run into the pit, swap bikes and off I go. Awhhhh…much better! A fresh clean bike, but it’s a lap too late. The next thing I know, Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) and Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) are inching up on a few of us. I’m about to get lapped by the leaders who have a 3+ minute lead on the next racer in the group…these ladies are flying. The race announcer is giving a play by play of the battle between these two ladies, one a seasoned Pro and the other a young teenager. Who wins this battle?? Katie Clouse, the teenager, the future of professional women’s racing…impressive!