CXM contributor and Elite racer Laura Winberry reflects on racing Oregon’s Kruger’s Crossing event. Dismal weather and a long season, including the State Championship the day before, meant that fields were uncharacteristically small. In fact, Winberry would be the only Elite woman to take the start, and she’d line up behind the Elite men. But, as she rediscovers, a cyclocross race is always a personal challenge, no matter the start list.
by Laura Winberry
SAUVIE ISLAND, OREGON – Four minutes into warm-up and I hold onto pink handlebars with frozen sausage links gloved in synthetics and fleece. I pedal cleated cinderblocks in circles, knowing their connection to my body only through memory and sheer fact. Two hours past noon and a non-existent sun becomes all the more unobtainable. Good thing I’m a weather-child, a girl of precipitation and storm. I breathe better and more deeply when pregnant heavens deliver aqueous gifts, and when white crystals descend from above, my heart beats like it means it. The skies pour kettles of rain and my soul smiles; cold, white worlds filter down, and I am home.
Seventeen minutes into warm-up and I revel at steady rain getting colder, collecting its thoughts and aspirations, and turning itself into snow. Sausage links, cinder blocks, and a grin that breathes fire – my presence moves forward with time, onward into space and upward onto other plains of awareness. A lone ranger amidst my own empire of astronautic breath – I roam.
Three minutes ’til the witching hour. Until seconds pass like honey and childhood. Until men molt into werewolves and women into seething wolverines, masked and unified by the unavoidable takeover of hungry rain pounding thirsty earth. Three minutes until seconds pass like seconds. I circle the start as a vulture, seeking prey as a form of redemption from yesterday’s inability to kill and consume. Only men, and a handful at that, convene at the take-off zone. I hear the sound of what is to come in the soggy footsteps of those falling into line for a cold, lonely battle among questionably sane mortals. A few good men, right? And one woman – the lone ranger, roaming.
Cinder blocks and sausage links and farmland soup in my shoes, I am instantly disappointed in the non-existent field. I want to work for my meal; but, prey must be present in order for a meal to be prospective, no? No, we’re resourceful when it comes to getting fed. There’s always a way to make it work. Perhaps this time, I am my own prey, I am my own hunter, I am my own meal. Watching the small pack of the wolves bound away, my eyes squinting against their gritty splatter, I hang onto the last man as if supper depended on it. I tinker with varying lines, modes of attack, and speeds of cadence. I open the door to the worn steeple standing erect and unwavering inside my chest. I find myself as I have always existed: my own best teacher and most potent competitor – my own prey, my own meal and my own hunter – waiting within, patiently and without question.
The snow changes into rain and ponders its next conscious state of existence. We who were once separate and distinguished, now breathe fire as beasts of late afternoon, churning through earth-thick straightaways spotted by puddles of oceanic depth. Each one of us roams, lone rangers to our own degree of subtext, saturated and coursing after our own private preys, whatever they may be.
Kruger’s Crossing CX Nov. 21, 2010