Everything that went wrong:
- My friend's planned arrival to my place was 1/2 hour later than I would have preferred. But without his help, I'd be taking the train! So I compromised, figuring i'll just have to be quick about getting ready once we arrive. It still made me nervous to go to a race with not enough time for proper preparation.
- He arrived an additional 1/2 hour later than expected. OK, 1 hour late. I'm getting nervous, but I think i can remain calm. OK, no time for extracurricular activities like changing into dry clothes post warm-up before the race. And warmup time will be limited.
- Against my advice, we drove the slow route there. OK, now i'm starting to freak out inside. I'm running out of pre-race activities that i can forgo to make up the time. No peeing before the race. Warmup time cut way short now.
- We got lost on the way there. My heart is pounding out of my chest. I won't get any semblance of a cycling warmup, but the blood is surely pumping!
- As I am almost at the start line - freaking out the whole way there because i was about to experience a very painful jolt when the gun sounds due to only enough of a warmup to unkink my legs from the drive, I notice that my rear tire is bottoming out on every pebble. With five minutes to start, there is not enough time to ride back to the car or to the pit (material post). Instead I ride down to one of the beer gardens and borrow a frame pump from a cyclotourist. Unfortunately, the pump allows what little air i had left in the tire to escape. Now three minutes to start and my tire is completely flat. Thankfully another racer, Hilde Quintens, scores a pump for me at the start line. Once the tire was pumped and warmup clothes stripped, I had ten seconds to calm myself down. According to scientific studies, I think it actually takes at least two or three days minimum to wind down after that much excitement, but i'm superwoman. I can defy science.
- Three seconds into the race, I still can't clip in. In my hasty preparation, i forgot to clean the sand out of the pedals. I turned the first corner in second to last place. In a completely exhaustive and dejected state, I was only able to manage 8th place.
I was in fight-or-flight mode even before race day arrived! No wonder I was exhausted.
Instead of working on getting my friend to arrive on time or stop getting lost and take the shortest routes, because that may never happen, or trying to control all other random things that can go wrong, I am now working on my reaction to them. I wish i could back time, try it all again but in a more calm, relaxed (rustig in dutch) state and see how well i could have done.
My last cyclo-cross race is this weekend in Kasterlee, Belgium. You can bet i will have implemented this new approach - or at least i will have started to head in that direction. I suppose it may take some time to change who i am considering it probably took years to get good at freaking out about every little innocuous incident.
The real pity is that if i more tranquil before the race, I would have really enjoyed the course. It had a few challenging deep sand sections, some rollercoaster bmx bumps, a strip along the lake and the obligatory disco flyover.
The day wasn't a complete disaster, though. I had a great time with my buddies (two sisters ages 11 and 15) after the race. As we walked along the course watching the men, we played a game called find the red-haired boy with big eyes.
Two days before the race, i ran into someone who said he planned to spectate at the race. I heard his cheers during the race and figured if i saw him afterwards, i'd thank him for his support. The problem was I didn't know what he really looked like - i could only recognize his voice since we met while riding bikes. In a sea of 15.000 people, it turned out to be a challenging task! So for the next two hours, the girls and i played jokes on each other pointing out the most unlikely guys to ever ride a bike, like 75 year old guys with oversized beer guts double-fisting it - beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other! One of the gals even found an actual redhead, which i'd say is an anomaly here in Belgium!