The point structure of the Seattle Cyclocross series heavily favored this last Monroe race, giving it double the points of any other race of the year. One racer from Rad Racing was only one point behind me in the overall, meaning that I'd need to beat her to stay ahead of her and maintain my position in the overall standings.
As per usual, I rode the course a couple of times before the race (and also to keep from freezing to death!). It was a flat course with one gradual uphill, two short but steep run ups, and two steep, short descents on loose gravel/ dirt that saw a lot of carnage. Here's some video of the action, taken by a super fast single speed racer (courtesy of KB Productions in cahoots with Cyclocross Magazine). Check out the hairy descent at 3:43 and the funny run up footage at 4:37 (and a blooper at about 8:00):
During the pre-ride I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it down the descent - most all of the cat 4 women hopped off and ran down. I attempted to descend but ladies in front of me were bogged down in sand, so I hopped off and wondered whether I could clear it during the race. We all circled back to the start line and waited for the gun to go off. Bang! Off we went. The start was straight and fast- not exactly the most favorable kind for me, but I hung in at about 9th place as we sprinted across the field on our way around a 180 degree turn and up a short hill to the switchbacky section of the course.
This particular part of the course wasn't too difficult- lots of big sweeping turns back and forth across a big grassy field. At the end of the field, though, was the hairy descent- I took a deep breath and sent it over the edge down the sand chute, and somehow stayed upright on my bike! I hopped off at the bottom to skirt over a single barrier, ran up a short pitch and was back in the saddle in no time. As I stood up on the pedals to bring it home for the first lap, I realized I was neck and neck with the Rad Racing woman who was a point behind me in the series standing. We crossed the finish line in a dead heat. Two seconds trailing was Rachel L from Team Group Health. At Maris Farms I had been able to catch her right before the finish; at Woodland park, however, she schooled me in the second lap.
The three of us popped over the crest of a short pavement section, into some sandy circles. I led our small pack, but I was starting to feel the pace of my first lap catching up with me. We headed across the flat, fast portion of the course, around the 180 degree turn and up the gradual hill, and both riders passed me then started to gap me. I pedaled vainly as the gap between me and them widened to 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds... ouch. I started to get discouraged, but kept my head, let myself recover a bit, and tried to keep both ladies within pouncing distance. I crossed the finish/ start line trailing Rachel by about 8 seconds. The Rad Racing girl had surged to about 15 seconds ahead of me.
Working as hard as I could without blowing up, I put my head down and tried to catch Rachel. I worked the entire lap, inching gradually closer... but couldn't get to her across the grassy turny section. By the descent I had whittled the gap down to about three seconds.... but still couldn't quite close the deal. I finally caught up to her at the short steep run up, and stayed on her tail as we came down around the pavement and looped back to the start line. I surged ahead of her in the sandy section by about a second; however, she caught me across the flat straightaway before the 180 degree turn and rode past me.
She started to pedal away but I surged ahead and stuck with her, trying not to puke and also trying to find a good place to pass. I chased her down the steep section, around the 180 degree turn, and up the steep run up. Finally, at the top of the run up, I was just a skoche faster getting back on my bike. I felt her hesitate, so I stomped on my pedals and pedaled as fast as I could for the last quarter mile, praying she wouldn't come flying past me. I sprinted over the pavement, around the raceway barriers, turned a corner and sprinted over the finish line... and crossed the line with a two second gap. Phew! We gasped for air, pedaled out a bit, and congratulated each other on a well fought race and the end to a great first season of cyclocross.
After catching my breath and cooling down a bit, I changed into some warmer clothes to enjoy the post race festivities (lots of beer, brats, and some fun door prizes). It was FREEZING but Shimano had some big space heaters set up, so I waddled back and forth between the space heaters and the free beer in the Fat Tire booth until the awards ceremony, where I was able to cheer on the top ladies in our field as well as cross my fingers for some goofy door prizes. I did manage to walk away with a decent frame pump, and I also acquired a comfy pair of SCX socks, a cycling cap, and of course an SCX beer coozy. Oh, and the results- I wound up 10th for the day and 7th for the series- not bad for a first season racing!