Congrats on your first race! You're on your way, figure out the equipment as you go.
Personally I also use SPD pedals and really like them. I have Moto Diva shoes, which fit and perform well, but yes they are mesh. I still have dirt in my toenails from my race last Sunday.
I usually have a bruise on my butt cheek throughout the season. I'm not really sure how it gets there, but it does. And then it stays...but there's no type of riding better than cross!