i had three goals going into my first-ever bike race. #1 start. #2 don't crash. #2.5 don't be the tool can that crashes out anyone else. #3 finish.
mission accomplished!! and runner girl is on cloud nine. who knew runner girl could get on cloud nine from a bike race? i sure didn't! but its true people. it can happen! i went into this thing with a totally open mind and arrived at the start line amazingly calm. sure, i joked about getting a good picture so i could always remember what i looked like before the road rash made mincemeat of my face and i had visions of blogging my race report from the hospital. in traction. all that said, i didn't need my heartrate monitor on to know i was fine. there was no jacked up sky high heart rate even as all 14 of us rolled off the start in a very tight pack. the pack stayed crazy tight for a while, and i watched as wheels wiggled and got too close to each other, i heard some brakes, everyone was just trying to get into a little spot. it all had the prime makings for a crash (in my head). but it was moving pretty slowly, there was no crash, i was not all jacked up and i was thrilled that i was right up towards the front.
my husband races bikes and i love to hear the minutae of his races. i never knew that i would one day recall his race report minutae while actually riding. in a race. he would tell me about the accordian effect that happens in a peloton. the group is together, then strings all out, then comes back together again. i don't know exactly how many riders equal a peloton, so i don't know if the fourteen of us women were one, but that accordian thing? totally happens. just like he said. i was in it. and its' fun.
the race was a women open race. there was a national champion in the race, a pro mountain bike racer (and head skirt ride chick), there were category 3 and 4 racers from local teams and there was a handful (4) of women who were unafilliated with any team and for whom this was their first ever race. i was in that group of four. there was a prize for us. it was announced at the start that whoever among the first time racers won, their next two race fees would be paid. now there was a weensy new little goal in the back of my head. provided i didn't crash first.
the race was a 3.1 mile circuit race - 3 +1 laps. i hung on with the main pack for almost the entire first lap. my downfall was jacking around with my gearing going into the last & biggest hill. i could never catch up after that. but neither could a fellow skirt rider who was also a first time racer. we rode on our own for a while, hauling ass and sucking wind. and as we came up on the start line i heard my husband yell as we passed "work together!" right! work together. so i told her the same thing my that my husband says to me on every single ride: "you work 30% less in the draft". i told her we needed to trade pulls and help each other though it. and so that's what we did for the rest of the race. traded pulls all the way around. we reminded each other to take deeper breaths, take a sip of water and get in the big ring. we told each other to stop pulling when we could tell it was getting tough, we told each other to hang on when we were pulling. and we dropped a whole bunch of f-bombs on the hills.
the key to happiness on a tough ride, or in a race as the case was - might be working together; but i know there is a point at which you are on your own -when its a race to the finish - every man for himself. seeing as there was only two of us for a majority of the race and we were "teammates" or "skirtmates" as it were; it was just going to behoove us to work together for most of the race. we had a better shot at getting to the finish semi-together than dying of exhaustion alone. on a hill. but. there was that prize of getting my next race fee paid. so, as we came up to the last hill - once we got to the crest, i was planning to let her know that its a race now, we're on our own - but she was struggling long before the crest of the hill. and at the same time that i kept checking back and yelling encouragement, i felt good and kept pulling away. i yelled back and inquired if she was ok, she said yes and to go ahead. sweet. i so have this. and i crest the hill & put it in the big ring and haul ass. the finish is just right up there. and then. she catches up to me! (note to self: work on the decents!) and now its an all out sprint to get our race fee paid. and i mean all out sprint. i looked at our wheels as they crossed the line and hoped they had a camera, cause i could not believe how close it was.
my next race fee will be paid for - by me. i didn't win the sprint. but i could not stop laughing as i crossed the finish line. -maybe if i wasn't laughing, i would have won the sprint. but i don't care. it was an absolute blast. the biggest rush i have felt in a long time. i can't figure out how i was more relaxed in a bike race than i usually am on regular rides with friends. my arms weren't tense. my back didn't get all tight, and there was no white knuckle gripping of the handlebars. i swear, it was bizarro-world. i loved hearing all our shoes click in to the pedals as we rolled off the start, i loved hearing the whir of the wheels as we all went down the hills in a pack (thank god for that cornering clinic). i loved hearing the bell that signaled we only had one more lap to go. i loved it all so much i am quite sure that i didn't work nearly hard enough. i loved the burning feeling in my legs and the little bit of dizzy as i got off my bike. i've been mulling it all over - i learned a whole bunch of great stuff. as i wobbled over to where my husband and all his teammates were waiting to roll up to their start, someone asked me how it was - i summed it up for him: "fun, hard, crazy, sick". here's the best part - all this stuff i just learned today? i don't have to wait four months till my next race to apply it all. i only have to wait seven days. i'm doing another race next weekend.