54 Miles with 4,580 feet of elevation gain. Just me and sixteen other Pro-1-2-3 women. That’s how they like to do it in Colorado: Give the Cat 3 Women a graveyard to play in. It’s difficult (although not impossible) for a Cat 3 to place high enough in a grouping like this, which is why this category is called, “The Graveyard.”
I’m still 99% new to this racing category and I have a lot to learn.
Truth be told, I was nervous lining up with all these other speedy women. When I’m nervous, I’m chatty. I talk a lot. I don’t like silence. Instead of working on drills to warm up, I’m just talking away, cracking jokes, and sweating profusely. Originally, I started off on my trainer with arm and leg warmers. By the end of it, all of it was gone.
I lathered sunscreen on my wolf tattoos but completely forgot about my arms. I’m already cultivating a laser-sharp tan line and it’s not even summer yet.
My field raced 4 laps, 13.5 miles each. You had the whole gamut of race features: hills, wind, flats, and bored volunteers.
I held on about halfway through the first lap with the front group – a mixture of Pros, 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. I slowly began to lose their wheels. I was too far ahead of the group behind me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to slow down, so there I was, time trialing up gnarly climbs as the wind pounded against my body.
Halfway through the second lap, I heard huffing and puffing, gears shifting, and as I turned the corner, dodging a truck, I heard a shout. Shit. Someone’s caught up to me. Luckily, these two ladies were nice. They told me that riding in a group is better than solo and to hop on. So I did. Both these ladies were from out of town. The older woman said she’d pull us to the finish line if that meant not having to race alone. I was okay with that.
At this point, we’re in lap three and I’m not only sucking wheels, I’m sucking in. I was tuckered as I’ll get out. Throughout the race, I questioned my abilities as a Cat 3, mostly asking myself if I was a poseur. As soon as those thoughts ricocheted between my ears another thought (the self-help-reading thought) said, “You earned your spot. You didn’t make it to the podium because you were slow.” I’d shake my head and try to find more energy.
I kept up with the two ladies for most of a single lap, but they soon drifted off and I fell back. Again, the self-limiting thoughts swarmed around my head like pesky gnats. I’d smash one and another would miraculously pop up. I tried focusing on the trees. The Air Force campus in Colorado Springs is beautiful. I reminded myself to keep my upper body calm, to breathe. I tried remember the things I learned in The Brave Athlete and Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. Nothing was coming to mind. I was too busy trying to control my breathing.
It’s hard to remember that we’re not our results. Just because I came in 8th out of 16 women doesn’t make me any less of a person. Most of the time, we’re okay with our results. It’s when we think about how other people will interpret the results that makes us anxious. I always feel like I should be coming in first always as the captain for the women’s pedal RACING road team. No one ever told me that was part of my job as captain. I assumed to lead you also had to be the best at everything.
Hell, I feel like to be worth anything I need to be the best at everything. That sort of thinking only destroys someone’s self-esteem. I try to remember that I lead because I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I race because I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I train because I want to meet goals. I challenge myself because I like seeing results and having control over them. I do all this to enjoy this short life I have.