The State Championship Cyclocross race always brings the power riders out of the proverbial woodwork- there’s always at least one or two women who haven’t raced a single Tennessee cyclocross race all season who will show up to take a shot at the jersey. This year was no different. The night before the race, I checked the “registered riders” list and saw Kim Flynn Fasczewski (AKA Kim “Flynnski”), who, as far as I knew, was undefeated in State Championship cyclocross (possibly all Tennessee races?). She’d kicked my butt on many occasions, but she’d also recently started a PhD program and hadn’t had as much time to train. I knew that she, along with all the rest of the horsepower in Tennessee (including Kat Williams, who, a couple of years ago, beat me on my own bike I’d let her borrow), would be incredibly tough competition.
Sunday morning, I woke up with a nearly sickening case of nerves. I knew that Kim and Kat could win (not that the other women couldn’t, also, but those two, in particular, had laid waste to me in the past). On the drive to Nashville, I was mentally preparing and reconciling with myself the possibility of placing off the top of the podium. However, I had a tiny, insistent voice in the back of my head that, no matter how much I kept telling myself “any placing is good as long as I race as hard as possible,” just kept whispering, “Screw that. You can win this.”
We arrived early so that Ryan could race the Master’s Race just before mine. I did my best to hide my nerves from everyone as I changed and prepped everything so that I could watch the start of Ryan’s race before I left to warm up. After some riding around on the road, his race was over, and I pre-rode the course. It was a demanding mix of power and handling. Both dismount sections were uphill. I practiced that at home, so I was happy to hear everyone else groan about them.
Race time. We line up. I look down at my heart rate- 124 bpm standing still.
When we’re finally off, Kim takes the holeshot, and I fall in one rider behind her. Kim, who, on top of being strong, is also an amazing bike handler, quickly puts a gap between herself and the rest of us. I jump around and get on her wheel, and, within a few turns, we’re gapping the other racers. I followed her for a lap, and, realized within a minute or two that I was very comfortable with her pace. So, at the single uphill barrier near the end of the lap, I ran past her going up the hill.
Feeling well warmed-up for it, I flew through the second lap like a madwoman. I knew I couldn’t overbrake for a corner, so I floated around them and powered up every single hill. I built about a 20 second gap during that lap, then held at 20-30 seconds for nearly the remainder of the race. Every time I wanted to rest in a less demanding section of course, I’d yell at myself in my head and, instead of shifting to an easier gear, throw in 5 hard pedal strokes. On the sections of course that doubled back on each other, I watched as Kat inched her way up towards Kim. I didn’t know if she’d catch/pass her then keep coming after me. Getting tired and slowing down wasn’t an option.
Finally, the bell lap. At that point, I just wanted it to be over. I rode it out with what I had left, and gave the most tired, relieved victory salute of my life. Ow. Looking back at lap times, I “won” the race on the second lap with a time fast enough to be near (but not on) the front of the men’s 1/2 race. I had a couple of other laps that were close to that time, but most were in the 5:40-6:00 range.