March 22, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Women Who Race

First things first:  Happy Birthday to my sweet Delaney!  7 years old; I can't believe it!

Bariani Road Race (as in Bariani Olive Oil):

I was nervous the whole 2 hour trip to the race.  To be more accurate, I've been nervous for the last 2 weeks, feeling the passing of time acutely.  I keep thinking about this crazy bike year:  Last year at this time, I was a committed recreational rider (newly picked by Trek to do this blog!), and thinking that anyone who raced was either super-fit or just plain crazy.  And there I was a year later, on Saturday, in the car on my way to my first race...nerves and anxiety on full blast.  On Friday we had hosted a birthday party for my daughter and ten of her friends, then my two-year-old appeared to have the stomach flu.  Not the most relaxing or focused way to spend the day (and night) before my first race, but perhaps it took my mind off of my worries.  Saturday morning, I finished prepping my gear, and Declan looked well enough to leave with the grandmas (who had both flown in to celebrate Delaney's birthday) which meant Chris could come with me (hooray!).  In the car, despite the deliberate non-cycling conversation, I kept focusing on one aspect of the race:  would I be able to clip in to my pedals and at least leave the start line with the pack?

We got to Zamora, California, and saw some of the men's fields out on the course.  Windows down, we heard the whirr of the wheels as they pedaled past.  The sight of 30 or so riders on bikes, clumped together in a pack, is an impressive sight.  But the sound of those wheels, knowing I could be a part of a pack soon, was at once terrifying and exhilarating.  We found the VeloGirls, parked the car, and started to set up, with Chris playing the role of soigneur (to be delicate, others might have a different word for his role).  

Lorri, true to form, had us set up like professionals.  (How she simultaneously treats us as beginners and professionals is beyond me, but it works!)  We put up the tent, set our bikes in the trainers, and sat down for a team meeting to discuss race goals.  All of us had admirable goals, and after training with these women for the last six weeks, I felt very connected and reassured that despite being individuals, we were a team.  We hopped on the trainers and got warmed up.

Soon enough it was time to queue up.  Fifty Cat 4 (aka: Category 4, the "beginner" field) Women were registered, and we chatted and jockeyed for position while watching a men's field take off.  Butterflies in my stomach aplenty, going through my mind like a broken record was whether I would be able to clip in.  We rolled up to the start line and I found myself at the very front with three other VeloGirls, and thinking, "What the hell am I doing up here?!"  I turned around to see Lorri with an encouraging smile, and I listened to a summary of the rules as Chris snapped pictures from the side.  I started to feel strangely happy...a bit crazy, but definitely happy. The official said, "Okay, go!" and we were off!

No one in front of me, I clipped in easily (phew!) and Melissa and I led the pack around the first corner.  I laughed to myself and enjoyed the lead, knowing it would be a brief position. Other riders surged in around us and we went around the second corner.  It was on the first real stretch of road that I realized that I hadn't gotten blown out the back before the race even started and that I was elbow-to-elbow, wheel-to-wheel in a pack of more than 30 riders, definitely a first experience for me!  Thankful for my training, I moved with the pack, finding positions that worked and just enjoyed the sensation.  We rounded the next corner and I marveled at how good my legs felt, oscillating between "Ok, I can do this!" and "Oh my god, how did I get here?"  At this point, I realized how fast we were going (not literally, although someone later said 30+mph), and knew that I had to stay with the pack as long as I could.  We all rounded the back of the course and headed toward the first climb.  As far as I could judge, I was somewhere near the middle of the group.  We approached the landmark for the start of the hill and my heartrate jumped substantially.  I calmed myself a bit, and we hit it - a short, two-part and rather steep hill.  And that was that.  I popped out the back like I was standing still and watched the pack leave, climbing that sucker like it was an ant hill.

A bit desperate, I tried chasing after them, knowing what I'd given up, but it was no use.  Cresting the top and coming out of my fog, I heard Lorri say, "C'mon, Amy, jump on my wheel!" and I gratefully accepted.  I found Oriana on my wheel and we all worked together, trading pulls, along the back stretch of the course to finish the first lap.  10 miles down, 20 to go!  And despite getting dropped, I was having fun!  We found some girls from the Davis Bike Club and worked to keep the pack in sight.  I felt strong and fast through the long flats and rolls, amazed at how much my riding had changed in this last year of cycling.  We lost sight of the pack, but continued on, and hit that hill again.  I did a little better than the first time, but still struggled up it, and we regrouped at the top.  Hit the line to complete the second lap - 20 miles in and this time I wasn't sure how on earth I would manage a third lap!  

Somehow, we picked up a few more riders and worked down the first stretch.  As we approached the corner, Lorri and the Davis girl picked up the pace and I watched them go, knowing that I couldn't keep up.  Feeling somewhat demoralized, I was very thankful that I was still with Oriana, and I have to give us props for chugging through that back stretch.  We put our training into gear, and pulled our way to the final pass over the hill.   Tapped, I told her to go on, and talked myself (literally) up the hill and along the final stretch, keeping the finish in sight and knowing I would soon be done with my first race.  My first race!  Feeling wobbly, but absolutely elated, I crossed the finish line, listening to the cheers of my teammates and other bystanders.  I did it!!!  

I am now working on my race schedule for the season.  Some of the mystery and intimidation has been taken out of my perceptions of racing.  I still view those experienced racers with awe, but I am able to see them as people.  Women who ride...and race.  That's all!  A year ago, I would never have thought that I could come anywhere close to racing my bike.  And here I am now with my first race under my belt, and feeling great that I finished my race age (40!) out of 50 riders.  I can't wait for the next one!

Comments on this post

Yup. That's about how my first race went too. :)

You have NO idea how PROUD and in AWE I am of YOU!!


so proud of you Amy.


Shucks, guys - THANKS! I'm totally feelin' the love.

RJ & Roxy, thanks for your encouragement! I'll have to figure out a way to say what I'm feeling, but you guys were the start of me thinking that racing is accessible to anyone who wants to do it. You guys rock and are so inspirational...but also down-to-earth and real. Thanks for that.

GREAT article - makes me want to clip in and give it a go!

Brave woman! Amy, what a feat. You were steadfast in setting this goal and sticking with your training and it sounds like you really had FUN. Bravo, and keep it up!

Amy - I just read your Women Who Race blog! Awesome girl! You really scored and were wonderful and I felt your excitement and your tempo throughout your story! Again, your success is inspirational. Congratulations. PS - you also look sensational!

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