Sunday, March 06, 2005


My first DNF. And my first bike race ever.

If you're interested in a report from a wimpy rider, please read on. Shoot, go ahead and laugh at me. I don't mind. It'd probably enourage me to try harder next time.


I have done some yoga over the winter, but nearly no cycling. I have been eating poorly and I have fat hips and a little tummy going. This is not (or I don't want it to become the norm.) I have looked much, much better than I look now. But while I know I'm out of shape, but I'm going to do this race anyway, to show myself that I have a long way to go towards becoming fit again.

I considered waiting to race until I had some training and better eating habits under my belt but figured that while that makes more sense, I'm going to just go for it.


Stopped at the grocery and loaded up on PowerBars. Proceeded to Starbucks to acquire high-octane caffeine drink. Seeing that I'm not a regular coffee drinker, this was my way of doping.

The drive to the race was fun. We are on the highway, about 15 miles away from the race, when two cars whip by us in the fast lane. The guy in the SAAB has a fancy custom bike, with carbon bottle cages - the whole getup. He was led by a silver truck with another fancy bike on top. They were totally egging us on, playing the mind games.

So, we were already racing, were we?


Got to the park, pulled the car onto the grassy field like everyone else, and immediately got in line for a race number. Observed several interesting conversations while in line. Noted that the guys in front of me were from two states away. Guys in back were complaining they were out of shape (they looked pretty fit to me.) Saw very few females. Actually, with hats on and full cycling kits, husband had to point out a few of them to me!

Got my race number, got my UCSF day pass but didn't get a transponder. They weren't giving them to the girls. Fair enough. It wasn't like I was going to need one anyway.


Pinned the number to my shirt and immediately started warming up on the road, as others were doing. Husband came with me on the warmup. He was wearing street clothes and said that he was having a hard time with his asthma, so I should drop him and keep warming up. Well I did so, but with all the excitement, I think I warmed up a little too much (or too little, I'm not sure.)


When I finally lined up to go - there was a rolling start out of the park driveway onto the country road where the race was taking place - I found out that there were quite a few women. About 25, actually, and they were from all over the place.

Here I am, totally out of shape - even for me - and here were women on teams, women who had been training all winter and had driven from hours away just to race today.

Luckily, contrary to expectation, the women were quite talkative (I don't think some had seen each other in quite awhile) and friendly. The girl who was closest to my abilities was a marathoner (great, I don't even run!) wearing a pink t-shirt over her jersey. I think a total of three women were sans-team kits.

Because the team girls were lined up together, I ended up in the back with marathon girl. The dead back of the pack.


As we rolled off, down the macadam (glad no one slipped!) driveway, I was acutely aware that I was totally stuck in the back. For the first quarter mile were were in a tight pack and the pace was extremely slow. This, I told the girl next to me, I can deal with!

Then we reached the first hill nearly immediately and I realized I was going way too slowly. What, get out of the saddle already?

I stuck with the group as they sped up on the hill, but though I thought I was being a good girl and pedaling completely over the crest of the hill, suddenly everyone was drag racing down the other side.

I fell back a little but I told myself I can catch up.

Then they were really gone.


I rolled over the next hill and the incredible headwind hit me. Pushed me to the side of the road a bit. I was looking for everyone else and I did spot the marathon girl. Perhaps I should catch up to her.


I don't know what happened, but I definitely did the opposite of what I thought I was going to do. In my pre-race daydreams, I saw myself pushing my little heart out and surprising everyone. Instead, I was pedaling like I was out for a Sunday stroll.

My heart rate was barely up, I wasn't breathing hard, I wasn't even sweating, but as the girls rolled away, I did keep riding. How long could this loop be, anyway?


The rolling hills were definitely more up than down. While still out for my Sunday stroll, I kept asking myself, why aren't I pushing hard? I just don't get it. Finally, I hit some flat-ish terrain and started stroking a bit harder, though nowhere near my capacity.

As I rounded a corner, a race official yelled out encouraging words I wasn't expecting:

"You're doing great! The girl in pink is not far ahead of you!"

In other words, she was saying hang in there and I could get back in the game if I wanted.

But that didn't register. All I thought was wow, you've really done it, totally wimping out. What a lack of effort. Well it's too late. You're the last turtle in the race. Soon, the men (who started about two minutes ahead of us) would be lapping me, so I should just quit after the first loop.


One super-fast guy on a slick bike and an equally slick team kit (he was Cat 1) passes me, and I kinda pick up the pace, thinking it'd be just terrible to be hobbling along and have ALL the guys pass me. Who knows what kind of rude remarks I'd get!

Well it turns out this guy lapped everyone, and no other guys were on my heels at all.

So I am finally plugging along at a good pace, really striding where I should have all along when the big downhill hits. I decide to push it since this is my first and final lap.

I sail down the hill, in the biggest of my big gears and I'm just loving it. I think I'm making up some time, too, when I just decide, well since I haven't seen any of the other women in miles, I'll quit while I'm not too far behind.


I pull to the side of the road (a cemetery, fittingly!) and tell husband that I have quit this race.

All the while, I'm recalling Lance Armstrong's story of one of his first European pro race (I think) where he was doing horribly (didn't expect such tough competition). He didn't quit. It was dark when he finished, but he didn't quit. Immediately following the race, he called his mentor and said he just isn't cut out for racing, but instead of agreeing or brow-beating him, the mentor just said he will race again and how proud he is that he finished the race anyway.

Spent about an hour watching the rest of the race. Learned that this isn't as recreational as I would have imagined. I'm pretty sure everyone except me had done some sort of training.

Watched about 1/3 of the field drop out of the race early. Folks with fancy, shmancy bikes too.

Actually had a nice time post-race. Enjoyed talking with a girfriend of one of the racers.

Got a pep talk from some of the female racers who finished in top placing. She said not to worry. She had a horrible first race. It was raining and she was crying but she figured no one would notice she was crying because it was raining so hard. She said I'd be awesome next time. Not sure if I believe the awesome thing, but it did give me some hope.


I couldn't get over my pathetic non performance. I should have pushed myself till I threw up or passed out of something. Instead, I barely broke a sweat. I just don't get it.

This is the part where I am reminded I have the best husband in the world...

Here I am bitching, being annoying in front of world's best husband, and husband said (in a proud way, not a 'you idiot' kind of way), "Well I'm proud of you. You tried racing even though you didn't know what to expect."

He was proud that I raced while knowing that I might be the worst out there, raced while I was out of shape... just did it.

I, on the other hand, am still mystified that I put no effort into it whatsoever.


Despite finding out that I severely lack competitive spirit - something most bike racers have built in from birth - I am determined to change that, and learn to push myself past my limit.

I am at the age where I'm pretty comfortable in my life. I don't have anything to prove but this race was all about showing me that I am resting on my laurels, that I do need to go out there and fight, not just in cycling but in life.


The next race is next weekend. Will I be ready? Hell no? Will I try? I'll work like hell all week to prepare. Will I finish? YES.


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