From a pretty early stage in my cycling “career”, I have been interested in trying cyclocross; the mud, the beer, the skin suits, the excitement, it all appeals to me. Year after year, I found myself trying to get my act together to participate in a race. But the first race would roll around and without fail, I would find an excuse not to race (i.e. not being fit enough, not having the “right” bike, worrying about skills… etc.)
Fortunately, this year, I started working at Panache Cyclewear, where I was introduced to SQUARE1. Of course, I’d seen many women’s only group rides and skills clinics offered, but often it felt like I wasn’t really a part of that group and was too intimidated to even see what these events were about. After meeting Melissa and Barry, and hearing about their mission, I felt like I could give the whole riding with people thing a try.
Melissa organized a series of skills clinics that started from the very basics of getting on and off, how to maneuver stairs and run-ups, and cornering. There wasn’t any pressure to be an instant expert or to be the fastest. Instead, the emphasis was placed on learning, and feeling your way through each of the skills until one felt comfortable. Which was great for me, as I am generally uncoordinated. 🙂
After a few weeks of weekly practices, it was finally time to line up and try and actual race. I felt pretty ready; I’d practiced my mounting and dismounting, I was fairly comfortable with “shouldering” my mountain bike; we’d just have to see how the whole “going as fast as you can” thing would go.
I was exceedingly nervous. Though I was fairly confident in my skills, I wasn’t sure how my mental-state while racing would translate to functioning arms and legs. What if I face-planted over a barrier? In front of… PEOPLE? Woof, I really did not what that to happen.
Negative thoughts aside, I was excited. The Cat. 5/ Newbie Women lined up for the first time that year. It was comforting to see mostly familiar faces there. Even the unfamiliar ones were friendly and smiling, excited for their own races. I tried to find a spot in the line-up that would put me on the more worn down section of grass.
The official told us we had 15 seconds until the start, I started counting down in my head. The whistle blew, and just like that, I was pedaling.
The course that week was fairly tame; we made our way around the frontside, up to a set of stairs, around to the sand-pit, then looped through the barriers. It was straightforward and everything we had prepared for, albeit, utterly exhausting. I hadn’t thought 20 minutes on the bike could be so tiring. While we had all started together, towards the first quarter of the race we had all, more or less, found our placings. Or at least I did; I found myself dead mid-pack, where I didn’t see the leaders until the finish, and no one was really, visually, behind me. I kind of loved that; I wasn’t worried about kicking anyone when I dismounted, I could moan and groan about how darn tired I was. It was pretty rad.
Though I know that scenario is likely to never really happen again, it was really great for my first race.
I finished 4th, which I was extremely proud of. I hadn’t DFL’d as I had jokingly planned on, but instead right behind the girls on the podium. It felt good! It felt like something I wanted to do ALL THE TIME.
My take-away from this experience is really that it is extremely helpful to have a cohort of supportive humans to help you achieve something that you’ve wanted to but just couldn’t figure out how to do on your own. Now, is that grammatically correct? Likely not. But is it really how I feel? Yes, indeed.
I’m excited to continue to learn more about the sport and keep riding with the ladies of SQUARE1!!!