Hard ground in December for cyclocross? I should have been well up for some mid winter speedy racing.
The course obviously had a nice flow to it's design. A good mix of fast power based sections with some cheeky corner-y sections thrown in. A couple of little swoopy descents and plenty of scenery. All good on that front.
But the random patches of grip free ice? I was not up for that at all.
I spent longer than usual before the race preriding the course, partly to keep warm (don't think it climbed much above freezing at all during the day) but mostly trying to find what I felt was a safe enough line around the course but each time round it just seemed to change and what was grippy one lap was compacted ice by the next. Don't get me wrong, there was still plenty of great racing going on (it was genuinely exciting watching the V50s race) but after a decent warm up on the turbo trainer, which proved to me that it wasn't a tiredness issue or anything like that, I lined up at the back of the group with the sole aim of just getting to the end of the race in one piece.
As the starting whistle went, I had no motivation to chase down the fast starters in front of me. I could tell I was sitting mid pack at tickover. My lack of "oomph" wasn't helped by realising that the front wheel was at too low a pressure and every rock hard lump/hidden rock/root was being transmitted straight into my arms via the horrible bang of a carbon rim smacking into the frozen surface. Not wanting to break myself with a crash on the ice was added to with a desire to keep the bike in one piece as well.
Resigned to "just going round until someone told me to stop" I spent a bit of time trying out alternative lines to the obvious racing one that was appearing, - not something you often get to do during the race, and made sure I kept supple in the cold, with extra stretching while riding - while allowing myself plenty of gawps at the very nice seaside scenery. I even found time to burst out laughing at the silly looking bambi steps everyone (me included) was taking to get across one of the off camber super slippy sections - it did not look 'pro' at all!
I picked up the pace a little bit for the final couple of laps. Still nowhere near racing, but just enough to keep the dropping temperature at bay and only on the few sections of the course where I thought it was 'safe' enough to put some effort in. Even that got a bit dicey and I'd backed off again by the last lap.
Eventually someone did tell me to stop, which I was very glad of - even "just getting round" had caused a random patch of ice crash, which blooming well smarted on the very very solid ground.
No idea where I finished.
To be honest I wasn't in the slightest bit interested - the race was really well run in super challenging conditions by everyone involved (even overcoming extra issues with first aid cover, to keep the day going), the course was well thought out, the marshals cheery, so there was no fault on the part of anyone else - but by the time I'd got back to the van I'd already started wiping it from my mind. I love racing (that much had become even more clear to me while rolling round the course, not being a part of the 'pointy end') but on that occasion I simply wasn't up for it. Other people were, and I have the utmost respect for the bravery they showed, proving that it could still be done, but it wasn't for me. Bring on the mud, or the dust, or even powdery snow, any of those will do (even if I'm rubbish at riding them well), just not ice!