Even the weather held, mostly.
We got up and away quite early so as to get a good parking spot so Bodhi wasn't ever too far away from us when he had to be left in the car, but it also gave us plenty of time to walk round the course and see exactly what I had let myself in for.
Alistair, being a seasoned pro at all this stuff, helped keep me calm as I seemed to be more anxious about this than I was of the marathon the previous week. Thankfully he has more confidence in my skills than I do and assured me that the course was not too technical.
I rode in the first heat at noon along with Alistair and Elisa. The race was for 40 mins plus a lap and I think was just under a mile per lap.
As we gathered at the start my stomach was churning and Elisa and I tried to reassure each other that it would all be ok, it was her very first race too.
The cyclocross ladies.
Two blows of the whistle and off we went, a mad dash for the first corner, I was doing ok but as I went round the corner I swear I heard what sounded like my tire blowing, so stopped to check it was ok. Rookie error! Don't stop, just keep going until something feels wrong or falls off as the masses quickly disappeared and I had a bit of catching up to do. I just started to pedal as fast as I could till I got back in amongst it and then settled in for the long haul.
After the first lap I seemed to get into a rhythm and tried to stick with that pace as best I could. I loved the top half of the course with the ramp and and a couple of sweeping corners. The bottom half was slightly trickier as there were tree slaloms, planks, and uphill and one hell of a head wind to contend with.
When I heard the commentator announce that 12 minutes had past I thought that I was never going to see the 40 mins through, but just dug in and tried to race as hard as I could. I and no idea where I was placed in the field but there was another female rider behind me and I just tried my best to stay in front of her as long as I could.
The final lap bell was a sweet sound to hear and was glad to cross the finish line having only been lapped by Alistair the once.
All we had to do after that was cheer on friends in the second heat and then wait around until 5pm and 6pm for our respective finals. It was a long wait but was needed as my legs felt rather tired with my efforts.
Even Bdog needed some rest on such a long day.
In the final I tried to get a better start so as not to have to work so hard to catch up. It was better and my confidence from the first race helped too. For most of the race I could not see any of the other few woman and the only people around or passing me were men, until at a section down near the trees you could see who was behind and I saw the girl that I had a good race previous with. Again not knowing where I was positioned in the field, my only goal was to try and stay in front for as long as I could. Alistair was being a great coach and shouting at me from the sidelines urging me to keep pedalling as hard as I could. My legs were on fire, my back ached but managed beyond even my expectations to stay ahead and cross the line before the lady in orange. I was well chuffed.
It was then time to watch Alistair's super fast final and Bodhi and I did our best to try and take photos and cheer him on.
In the end I managed to get 3rd place and was completely surprised.
Alistair has always said "It's only 40 minutes of pain but you'll enjoy it!" and I often thought "I'm sure I won't" but low and behold I did. The day was great and even if I had come further down the field I would have enjoyed it all the same, because although I was trying to stay ahead the competitive challenge was mostly with myself.
If you are at all looking for a new sport/challenge I recommend cyclocross as you not only get a great workout but you get to hang out with lots of really nice people too. Many riders ride for teams but I am not part of a team, so we made my own team name. Go team Rainbow Cloud!
Up and over.
Go Ali D!
I see him coming.
All photographs by Caroline Harvey and Alistair Dow.