Saturday, August 17, 2013

showing up (Fair Hill Classic 2013)

Sometimes (well, twice this season, if we're keeping track) I get the urge to show up at a bike race and test my mettle, check in with myself, mix it up...
Can I finish?
Will I pass anyone?
Is this going to help me be less afraid of going fast these days?
What does a hard twenty miles feel like now?

I showed up at Fair Hill, fully expecting to get shelled, yet willing to leave it all out there just the same.
It's weird for me to feel this way about racing after all these years, but I am okay with it.
As far as testing my mettle and answering those questions:
Yes, I can finish...of course I can finish a twenty mile race. Not very quickly, apparently, but not last either.
Yes, I passed a few women...I reeled in three, which was no easy feat.
I may be a tiny bit less afraid of going fast. Before I got pregnant, I finally began to feel confident enough to really let it go and try to be a stronger descender. Then I had a baby and I'm back to riding like a wuss. I don't know why I am so scared to go fast because I trust my ability and I know I am a pretty decent bike handler...I'm just scared. (so, wait...I'm a wuss with skills?)
Twenty miles feels brutal to me right now. I'm not used to riding much more than an hour and today, I started coming unglued around the ninety minute mark (no...actually, it was sooner than that).
I've been riding alone mostly and I'm sure that hasn't helped with intensity. While I may think I'm doing these hard rides and crushing it, I'm simply not. I really need to ride with (admittedly, faster) people to push myself.

So, that's that.
I showed up.
I rode some parts like a wuss {braaaaaaaakes!!}, but I rode some parts like a racer.
I wanted to quit with just two miles to go.
I got off my bike in the last open field grassy climb and walked for a few minutes, cursing my cramping legs and aching hips.
I wondered if Bill would be at the finish line with our daughter (he had stayed home this morning and would show up depending on when Maeve woke and got their day started).
Reluctantly, I climbed back on my bike and pedaled onward in no man's land...not another racer in sight.
Finally, I reached the road and realized the finish was really, mercifully, near...
and there, indeed, were Bill and Maeve (all smiles) cheering me on.   

It's taken me the past few seasons/years to figure out how I feel about racing my mountain bike...
I'd been conflicted for so long about working my way up through the ranks only to feel dejected and anxious once I reached the top (the top being "expert" or "elite"...I'm not implying that I was at the top when I was racing at that level by any stretch of the, no).
It's taken a while, but I've finally made peace with the fact that it's just not for me...
I'm not comfortable riding that aggressively or that fast.
I don't think I ever will be.

I love to ride and sometimes I love to race.
I was out on that course today for a long time.
For a while, I felt strong and for a while, I felt awful.
I was second to last. {edit: I wasn't second to last...I fared a little bit better than that, having seen the official results now}
I navigated South Park with more prowess than I've ever ridden it before.
I hit a few downhills without grabbing the brakes.
I careened swiftly through tight trees over chattery roots without imagining the worst.
I showed up.
I did my thing.
...and it was fun.

Several random post-race reflections:

It was really nice to see some familiar faces in a sea of strangers. I've been out of the scene/loop for quite a while and didn't even recognize most of the people milling around, let alone the women I was staging with.
While I was busy feeling like the shy newbie fiddling with my watch at the start line, Sandie and Angie put me at ease with some kind words and unsolicited encouragement. {thanks}

Watching one of my dearest friends wrap up an impressive season was nothing short of inspiring...Kathleen Harding is a force. (she is clearly not afraid to go fast...I could stand to take a page or two from her book)

Maeve doesn't seem to mind hanging out at bike races...she made herself right at home under the team tent.

Bill should race. I didn't get the sense that he was wistful or anything about missing out on today (or this season in particular), but I know he needs to get back out there. I'm excited to see how that plays out for him. 
my only picture from the day...Bill doting on his baby at the TBR tent

On the way home, I stopped at Wawa for a pretzel.
On a whim, I treated myself to a Coke slushy, too.
I haven't had one since I was a teenager.
It was amazing.
That's all.



Jill said...

Way to go!!! Seriously, awesome.

The Bikinator said...

Kim, It was great to see you out there again. You were in the starting line up when I first got into the Elite ranks, so to you see you back in a race kit again felt right to me. You are part of my world view of local mountain bike racing. Welcome back!