IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT.
Okay, not exactly. It was nine in the morning but may as well have been dusk. The cool, wet, dark summer was making a final stand, trying to squeeze whatever light was left out of the atmosphere and me. Today would be my return to racing after illness, injury and major surgery. It had been 15 months since my last race and this would be my first Super D. Ever.
How to describe a Super D for those of you unfamiliar with this form of bike racing? We have a term for it called “throwing it down the stairs”. It in this case,would be yourself, or more accurately, myself and my bike. And rather than stairs, I’d be throwing it down roughly 9 miles of technical, rocky, slippery singletrack twisting through tight stands of trees, all in an effort to reach the finish with the fastest time. I had the added goal of arriving there in one piece.
I arrived early to get my start time and found out I didn’t roll out until 1pm. Great. Now I get to sit around for four hours with my acid stomach, my knocking knees, my jangly nerves. Guys started pre-riding the course, but it was pissing rain and miserable and I didn’t want to get soaked and then freeze my ass off waiting for my starts. A real pro would have brought two kits. I didn’t even have a rain vest. So I drove back into town, undecided if I should even race. Race day anxiety gave way to a surly melancholy courtesy mother nature. So I drank coffee and went shopping at a sporting goods store where—lo and behold—the sun came out, briefly, just long enough to bitch slap me into action.
“Uma, dahrling. You paid $65 for this silly bike ride. You damn well better go ride your bike. Now scoot.”
I hustled back out to the course where the weather began to turn nasty again. But I rode. I rode hard. One minor crash on a slippy root. Course was muddy slick gloopy soupy greasy and fast! Rather like a typical Portland cyclocross race, with lots of two wheel drifting in mud. I rode the technical stuff well, with only two b-lines chosen at the last minute given the conditions.
I raced until I puked. It’s been years since that’s happened. I didn’t have much to offer up to the race goddess that day, but whatever I had, I left it all out there. I could practically feel the leader of the Oregon Super D cup breathing down my neck. She caught me on the climb. Always my weakness, climbing. But as much as it sucked getting caught by the champ (who, by the way, is 10 years younger, way fitter, and lives at 5K elevation whereas I’m at rain puddle level) I was pleased with my effort. I didn’t screw up much, I finished intact, and best of all? I caught the last girl in the Under 35 category who started her race 5 minutes ahead of me! Awesome!
Results: Second in my age category. 4th overall Cat 2 women. Not bad for a janky old lady who hasn’t raced in 15 months or trained, had a major surgery and been sitting around on her ass for months before the surgery, and who really only feel in love with mountain biking a couple of years ago.
I may have lost the race on that hill, but I won it at the start when I showed up on the line and kicked my Negative Nellie’s ass to the curb. The greatest obstacle, it turned out was not the rock of doom I sessioned the day before with the ladies. It wasn’t even the minor wipe-out on that silly little root. (BTW The 661 Kyle Strait pads kick booty as protection!) The greatest obstacle—in racing, creative work, writing, relationships, yoga, you-name-it—is what always has been:
It occurred to me after the race that my lack of writing much was directly related to my lack of riding much. I gained much more than a decent result from this race. I had a sense of connecting with a part of myself that had been dormant for too long. I maintain that samadhi, the yoga term for “flow”, is a state of mind that different people cultivate or experience through different means. After years of meditating and yoga, I find it here, in rough and tumble conditions, where things are gritty and beautiful and edgy and hard and focused in sharp, sharp relief. Most people go from extreme and endurance sports to yoga as they slow down. So, I happen to be going backwards. Anyone care to join me?