I showed up to the Portland round of the USGPs with some high expectations. I had worked hard since June to see how I would stack up with the fastest cross racers around. I had just finished a big two week block of training and my biggest goal of the year was only a week away. I was eager to push myself harder than I ever had and I knew my biggest competition for Master’s Nationals would be there. What followed was a series of disappointments.
If you’d have asked me before the USGPs I was pretty sure that I could contend for the win in my nationals race. At least the top 3. A tall order I know, but I believed it. Why not right? I’d had my best season to date, just finished a big block of training and the race was down the street from my house. Plus, if you never tell yourself you can win, then you wont. Sure my legs were tired at the State champs (6th place finish) but I had been riding myself into the ground leading in and out of it.
The USGPs were gonna be my coming out party! I wanted to blow people’s minds, well at least my own. I was gonna finish on the lead lap. I wanted to crack the top 20, something I’d never been close to before. I had visions of tail gunning the lead and chase groups.
WOW was I wrong. My trip over the pass in the morning was a series of errors. Going back to bed for an extra hour. No problem, still plenty of time. Shoot! I have to go print out my permission to ride form at Sunnyside. No problem. Gas, dang! Fill the water jugs, arghhh! Better remember to eat breakfast (egg mcmuffin…yes an egg mcmuffin). Why are people driving so slow on straight open roads??? Ah! I hate driving through Gresham. Starting to get stressed. Traffic jam on an I-84 exit, no worries, just go around and continue to I-5. SHIT! How am I on 205S???? Crap. I don’t know what the best decision is, continue on or back track? At least I had my OSU Beaver Civil War game to listen to. Another downer!
Basically, I got to the venue after the women’s race and it was my own fault. A series of bad decisions had me basically missing my race start. Chuck pointed me to registration and ran over to pin my numbers on. I got a ¼ of a lap in for warm up and then lined up near the back. The gun went off and I suffered through 40 min of racing. I think I got scored 4 or 5 laps down. Yeah, lead lap? Not. Top 20, NOT! WTF did I think I could pull off??? FML. I worked so hard and I fucked it up. I FUCKED IT UP. Go home and try again. Pull it together Schmitt. You didn’t work this hard to approach a big race with this kind of rookie shit. Who are you fooling? You’re an amateur and that’s all you’ll really be. You didn’t even take off your seat bag. Dang! Tomorrow is another day, so get over yourself and make it happen.
Another day it was, but not much better. I did approach the day much more professionally (sans the beer and whiskey drinks the night before to drown the sorrows), but what followed was a similar result. There was no amazing ride. No top 20. No finishing on the lead lap. Not even 1 lap down (although people 3 seconds in front of me got to go out for one more. WTF? There was no one behind me for a minute and it wasn’t the leaders). The worst part? I finished 5 minutes behind some of my master’s nationals competitors both days. Fuck. Win nationals? Yeah right. Time to re-evaluate. Top 10 IF everything goes well.
Really though, what should I have expected? I mean, I blew it on Saturday. Plain and simple. Couldn’t expect much more than that as a mortal bike racer and it shouldn’t be the barometer for my fitness. I wasn’t too far behind some of Oregon’s fastest (non traveling) racers. We were all getting a whooping. I raced HARD the whole fucking time. I hadn’t been pushed that hard all year. The USGPs are just a different speed that you don’t get on a local level. When I could, I was standing, shifting to a harder gear, raising my cadence, just plain giving it. I rode clean and felt stronger than I had weeks before. I had an amazing start on Sunday and then just slipped back as the race went on. A few of those masters who would be at nationals actually weren’t too far in front of me. Most of the results were filled with racers who had been traveling nationally all year. The courses were fun! In my head, I was hoping for a little too much I think, but in reality, I still had strong days with positive lessons to take with me in to nationals.
Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want to do as well as possible to make the efforts seem worth the sacrifice. We want to make others around us proud. We might have expectations that are a bit out of reach, but if we don’t have those expectations we’ll never reach them. We need to keep raising the bar higher, so we continue to push ourselves. That’s why we are out here right? To have fun and push ourselves whether it’s as a beginner, elite or everything in between. I need to be able to smile and I need to get better. Eventually both happened after the PDX USGP weekend.