Saturday, October 29, 2011

Making The Most Of It

There's still some joy in Mudville ...
In baseball, sometimes a hitter takes a mighty swing but makes poor contact, sending the ball dribbling into the field of play.  If he hustles and beats the throw to first base, then someone is sure to say, “It’ll look like a line drive in the box score.”  A hit is a hit, statistically speaking, whether it be a slow roller or a blistering line drive.

In today’s cyclocross race at Washington Park in Milwaukee, I placed 13th out of 21 in the Masters 45+ Cat 4 field.  That’s a statistical fact.  But just as a baseball box score can obscure the circumstances when a hitter succeeds in spite of himself, so too can race results give a false impression of one’s performance.  Today I was much better than the final result indicates.

I got off to a very good start and within a couple of minutes was starting to pull away with a lead group of about 10 riders, including the top guys in the series.  A crash put Timm Jacobson on the ground … and behind me for the first time all year.  I felt I was working my way toward a Top 5 finish and perhaps even a podium spot.  I bunny-hopped the second barrier section: a “coffin.”  This was the Halloween ’cross race after all, and a lot of the riders and spectators were in costume.  Bunny-hopping was the shorter, faster way through that part of the course; some riders chose the detour and my decision to hop the barrier allowed me to move up a couple of spots.  But advantage soon turned to disadvantage: by the halfway point in Lap 1 it was clear I had pinch-flatted, almost certainly a result of landing the bunny-hop on half-filled tires.  Now down to zero PSI in my rear tire, I couldn’t corner and I began to lose positions.  But I held the bike upright and made it back to the SRAM pit area just short of the finish line.

The SRAM mechanic set me up with a loaner wheel, but by the time I got rolling again I was almost certainly dead last in my category.  I began Lap 2 knowing it would be just a 3-lap race.  The leaders were gone and so was any prospect of a high finish, but I was determined to reclaim as many positions as possible.  Finishing 21st would have meant 0 series points and that prospect just wasn’t acceptable; I want to finish the series in the Top 10.  Every time I passed someone I said to myself, “That’s another point.”  It was motivating.  I earned 6 series points for my 13th-place finish, and that’s a whole lot better than nothing.

So, I did what I could under less-than-ideal circumstances.  It would be easy to be disappointed by the missed opportunity, but I fought to the end.  Hard work paid off today despite misfortune, and that gives me confidence for tomorrow’s race at Sheboygan.

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