A Fine Line – Trying To Stay Upright In Oregon, Part III

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This season, we’ll be following a few racers who have some interesting stories to share. From a freshly-minted elite racer to a newly declared master, we have a wide variety of racers we’ll be hearing from. We’ll catch up with them intermittently as the season wanes on, and hopefully we’ll be able to chart their progress towards their individual goals. Cyclocross Magazine is a community effort, and we’re inspired by the great stories from all of our amazing contributors and columnists. Our new racer is David Sterry, a racer who’s just started to take cyclocross seriously in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

by David Sterry

Our intrepid B racer makes his way up the stairs. Photo courtesy of David Sterry

Our intrepid B racer makes his way up the stairs. © Cristin Norine

“Category B, one minute!”

It’s Saturday afternoon in Bend, it’s sunny and about 60 degrees out and I’m on the starting line. Luckily, my number got the second row starting position this week. “Click, click,” check my brakes one last time, a few deep breaths. Someone makes a bad joke and we all laugh nervously. “30 seconds!”

“I didn’t sleep right, eat right and had one too many beers last night; this might be a disaster,” I think to myself, but it’s too late now. The whistle blows and we all surge forward down the concrete towards the first left-hand corner.

It’s already November and the Cross Crusade series is close to wrapping up. I feel pretty certain that I was cheated out of a few weeks in October, because it sure doesn’t feel like it should have gone by that fast. But if I remember correctly it went something like this: race Sunday, rest and stretch Monday, climb and workout Tuesday, race Wednesday, train Thursday, crash on Friday night, ride Saturday and start all over again.

And there’s all the team stuff on top of the personal things: Who’s setting up the tent this weekend? Should we get hats? What’s our Halloween costume this year? And on and on … Then you find out your house needs new pipes, then work is stressful, then the washing machine breaks and I find myself at a Laundromat on a Wednesday evening getting weird looks as I’m washing my skinsuit.

I am having fun right?

I have had in the past a bad habit of running myself into the ground. Be it for running, or climbing, or riding. I would just go, go, go until I woke up one morning and my body said, “I protest! You ain’t going anywhere today, you idiot!”  And with cyclocross I seem to get there fast, since racing every Sunday and riding to work every day rain or shine takes a lot of energy. This year I swore to myself I wouldn’t let that happen. And so I raced hard every Wednesday and Sunday through October until in the very last week, I felt that crash coming on. And I stopped, took a week off. Went to the rock gym with an old friend and didn’t talk much about racing. I even spent a whole evening on the couch without going to the garage to adjust something on my bike.  It was a struggle though: I wanted to be racing, or working on my bike but I knew rest was more important.

It’s easy to just let the sport take over your life. I’m sure most of you reading this know the feeling. Who cares about work, right? I’ve got to answer this team email about who’s getting the tent to Bend early on Friday for set up. Or figure out what night I can take my bike apart to clean the darn thing, again. Or read more about what foods I should be eating, and figure how much that new wheelset costs. But like the title of this column, you have to find that “fine line:” how much effort can I put into each of these things without running out of gas? I don’t have an answer to that, some people can take on more than me, others less. I just know that each week I look at what I have to do and say, “OK, this is manageable,” and then suddenly it’s Sunday and I’m getting ready to race again and surrounded by friends.

Beyond the personal stuff, this season has been up and down. I’ve had good races and some horrible ones. I got crashed out hard in some gravel at PIR, which was captured on film and will soon be adorning my living room wall. At Barton Park, I was feeling so bad I thought I would throw up from the moment the whistle blew, but somehow still managed to have fun racing against Bill Larson from Cyclepath. At Hillsboro, my teammate Nathan got in a bad wreck right after the start, one that I barely avoided smacking into. Coming around each lap and seeing him still on the ground, now under a blanket, now being loaded into an ambulance made staying focused on racing near impossible. (He is doing OK now though.) At Rainer, I pulled together a very solid race and finished well despite losing time to a crash and a dropped change. Basically, this season I did not end of racing near as well or as consistent as I had originally hoped. But that’s OK, because when it does come together, man, does it feel amazing.

And it finally happened that Saturday in Bend.

As we take off from the start, I noticed that no one has decided to go down the left side. I take my chance and hammer it to pass a few people before squeezing in for the first hard left hand corner. I’d bumped myself straight into the top ten. And a good thing too because that course was dusty, I mean, “it’s so dusty I think my lungs are now 60% dirt” bad.

The first group of us almost ran off the course because we couldn’t see a thing; I just remember cones suddenly appearing under my front tire and realizing I might be in the wrong part of the corner. Then, we settled in and I had a blast, despite not feeling prepared at all beforehand. My legs felt great. I rode clean and fast and only faded a bit on the last two laps. I got passed by a few people, but I fought hard to stay with them and in some cases, passed them back for good. The grassy infield with its flyover, staircase, fast-banked corners and screaming spectators felt like an explosion of sound and motivation.

On the last lap I knew I was being chased down by an acquaintance from another team, and I could hear people yelling for him. We charged up the stairs together and I came out just far enough ahead to hold a small gap in our sprint to the line. With that one great race, all the frustrations of poor performances weeks prior are wiped out. Until I try again next week.

 

 

Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
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