Sometimes I really marvel at what one does to race a bicycle. What normal person spends hours upon hours training within inches of 4500-lb speeding vehicles, descending at breakneck speeds on a rubber contact patch no wider than a pencil, getting up at 4 am to drive to Orinda to make an 8:10 race start? None you say. . .you are correct!
This past weekend was one of my favorite races on the calendar, the Berkeley Hills Road Race. I have not done this race as often as I would have liked, but this year it worked out and I was stoked.
Racing is funny -- you train and train and have the best intentions of things going your way. Every race you have this dream of being able to throw your arms in the air and scream with joy because you were the first one to cross the finish line. To do this you need both luck and talent -- but for the most part I think it is more about luck than talent. I was ready for a great race. I had had a solid week of training, the race was on Sunday and not Saturday so I did not have to miss work, and the weather was to be pretty nice. All of these things were true but just when you think you have it figured out and life is going your way. . .oh darn here comes that head cold you were not expecting!
I really wanted to race. So, in spite of my ill-timed bug I decided to race. I went “easy” on myself and chose the Masters 35+ race which was 50 some miles instead of the Pro 1-2-3 race which was 70 some miles.
It is really an amazing and empowering thing to show up at the start line with a bunch of gals who are still racing bicycles well into their 60s! And let me tell you these gals are fast! As an older athlete some of the snappiness might be gone, but the speed, endurance and shrewdness are oftentimes better than with the younger racers.
It was a great race. Hilly, windy and hard! As for me, well. . .I set my goal to finish with the lead group. . .mission almost accomplished.
As a racer my biggest challenge is patience -- the same challenge that presents itself in my day to day life. It is kind of funny how themes keep repeating in all facets of our lives! I was really patient for the first two thirds of the race. Stayed with the climbers on the hills, descended well and rode the flats well. But then I got excited. On the finishing lap I closed down a couple of attacks, made an attack of my own and then realized my legs were getting tired. With less than 5 miles to go the group let a rider off the front. Everyone just watched her ride away, nobody chased. I was too tired to think about closing the gap myself and everyone else just looked for someone else to do the work as there was one big climb to go. We hit the last climb, aptly named Papa Bear, and all hell broke loose. It just becomes about survival. A quarter of the way up my legs and lungs say “LATER” and a gap opens. I see the lead group riding away. . .oh they are so close and I am so close to my goal. . .just finish with the lead group! All I could do was watch them finish in front of me. . .so near but yet so far. . .again!
At the end of a race you have several choices, you can be really bummed because things did not work out as you had planned, or you can ask yourself that ever important question that always comes up when you are leaving the house at 4 am or puking on a climb. . .did I have fun? As long as that answer is yes. . .you know you are doing the right thing even if it seems crazy.