Sunday, December 25, 2011

Because I sure don't have any other plans...

Since I'm obviously not drinking Egg Nog and sitting around a fire place with my family, I figured I could probably squeak a blog entry into my schedule on a race-less Christmas day in Belgium. I really wanted to write an update right after Diegem on Friday, less to inform anyone who actually reads this blog, but more to vent for myself. However, the late start time and a few other things have put it on the back burner until now.

If you're a follower of my Facebook or Twitter account you may know that I got sick with some sort of bug and was dealing "flu like symptoms", as they say. This had me doing wind-sprints to the bathroom for the better part of an entire day. Openers? Not so much. I had to miss a race in Holland on Tuesday because of the sickness and was still too laid-up to muster much more than a light 45 minute spin on Wednesday. Fast forward to Friday and I was hoping to have the sickness banished and be ready to preform at Diegem. Anyone who's ever had the flu knows the exhausting feeling of walking up the stairs while in it's grasp. Although the major symptoms were gone, the effects like that were still around. 

I told Jake the morning of the race that I was still feeling pretty zapped, but wanted to give it a go because it was such a cool race, and my personal favorite. I did, what I feel, was a pretty good job staying optimistic about the prospects of racing well and blocking out any negative thinking. I absolutely loved the course during pre-ride and had no technical issues with any sections, and the mud was even manageable for someone like me. I did an appropriate warm-up and headed to the start line. 
Another American, Jeremy Durrin

Jake and I were kind of early, so we spun up and down the starting straight with Sven, Jeremy Durrin, Styby, Mitch Hoke, Niels... you know, the gang. The atmosphere was honestly, Superbowl-like. The fans we all jazzed up just to see us spinning our legs. That scene was as much as cyclocross racer can ever hope to feel like a legitimate professional athlete. We all took our spots on the line, with an American in almost every row of the grid. It was very cool to have so many of us at the start. My points got me a second to last row call up. Pretty much what I had expected, and I was ok with that.

The start was hectic, but usual. No issues on my end as I exchanged elbows with my 50 closest Belgian buddies in search of the left turn off of the pavement. In general the start went well and I even surprised myself by hoisting my bike over my head to run through a tiny gap where all of the other rider had dismounted at an off camber turn. I've never actually used this move, but I'd seen the Belgi's use it previously. I snuck between a racer's bike and the barricades at the side of the course, nearly swiping the fans in the face as I wielded my steed above my head. Surprisingly effective actually.

Still running off the rush of adrenaline from the start I was able to turn the pedals at an acceptable rate for the first lap or so. Once I started to settle in, the totally zapped feeling was back in my legs and I was struggling to push the pedals over. I rode another lap, or maybe more, but it was painfully clear that I wasn't ready for this effort level just yet. Maybe stick to conquering stairs first instead of a Superprestige.

I pulled the plug the next time through the pits and thanked the guys for all their work on my bikes. It's really a shitty feeling pulling out of a race when you've got a whole crew there to support you. They were understanding and reassuring, and I tried to be for myself as well. It just wasn't very easy. 

See, Belgium has been on my radar for a while now. I have been planning my preparations around performing well here, not DNF'ing. I know that things out of your control do definitely happen, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach my first illness in who knows how long.

Geoff told me that tomorrow is a new day, and I told him that saying should be the slogan for Euro Cross Camp... In these conditions and in this environment, there are a lot of things you've got to put behind you. I'm more than prepared and the disappointment from Diegem is definitely pushed in a rear-ward general direction. Tomorrow is my first World Cup of this trip, in Zolder. I'm really looking forward to having a good ride and finally posting a positive race report on this blog. Thanks for supporting me, and also for taking the time to read what I've written.

Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad. I wish I could be at home celebrating with the family, but thanks for always supporting me. 

Muddy Pits...
Bikes straight to the shoulder in the pit