I went to watch a stage of the Tour of California a few weeks ago. Well, as much as you can watch while taking care of a 2 year old. I’ve never watched a big pro road race in person before and as we were wandering around the lifestyle festival I was struck by how many women were there. Typically the biggest women’s demographic at races are the ones there to watch their husbands/boyfriends/sons race. Why aren’t these women racing? Most of them were wearing lycra and cycling shoes. They were cyclists but, most likely, not racers. I don’t have any interesting insight and I know there are a smarter people involved in the industry trying to figure that out.
Why do I race? Why do I think more women should race?
Here is thing, while I aspire to race open/elite class and not be DFL, I don’t consider myself fast and prefer to race Master’s and age group when possible. I am almost 37 (shit I am almost 38) and unlikely to find any hereto-yet-undiscovered pro level talent. I have no inspiring story of success and triumph. I have always been an athlete but never top level. The kind you put 3rd in a relay… on your B team. I am am sharing my story because I want women to know that racing isn’t just something for “other” people.
The first race I ever remember was a triathlon in 6th grade. I stayed competitive through high school and was lucky enough to have a swimming scholarship to a small D2 university in Colorado. I quit swimming my final year to focus on my coursework, took up mountain biking and did a few races. Ignoring the dark years of my mid-late 20s, I got back into mountain biking in 2007 and started racing cross country again in 2008. In 2012, after my daughter was born, I added cyclocross to the schedule.
What does racing mean to me? Why race?
It feels good.
Racing means that I have done something for *myself*– that I spent time thinking only about my needs and my wants and how my body feels. How infrequently do most of us spend time on just taking care of ourselves? The high intensity effort of a race is not replicated even in the toughest training session or spin class. Racing is acknowledging all the time I have committed to my physical and mental health. Racing gives me a goal* and helps me get on my trainer at the end of a work day. Racing gives me confidence. Racing is a tangible accomplishment – it is real accomplishment. Racing means I was scared and had doubts but went for it anyway. Racing is a community and everything is better with community.
Racing is my commitment to my passion.
During a race I can rail favorite trails without yielding to other trail users. I have cleared trail features that previously stumped me as I accepted the flow and energy of racing. Most importantly, cyclocross racing lets Scott and I have little reminders of our pre-baby days of riding together.
Racing does not mean that I am fast. (What does ‘being fast’ even mean?). It does not mean that I am always prepared. And even after a lifetime of start lines, I still hate those last 10 mins before the gun goes off when every women looks fantastically strong and competent!
How I barely make it work. Sometimes.
Everything I do is better when I exercise regularly– work, being a decent mom, not kicking my cat when he howls at 4:45am. Like most people I have a lot of commitments to juggle. Following a structured plan gives me the same focus and commitment as going to a group class does for other people. The time-crunched plan from LWCoaching, and before we moved, a weekly 60 minute strength session at Marx Conditioning have been perfect. I’m not a morning person so most of my week day training is from my bike commute and 3 or 4 days a week on the trainer once our daughter is in bed. Using a training plan from a coach has been important because I can ‘trust in the plan. trust in your training’ (as a good friend once told me). It helps my mind release the self-doubt and negative self-talk that I should have trained more or harder or smarter– those doubts that keep me from signing up for a race.
During the work week most of the trainer workouts are 60-80 minutes– something I can accomplish from about 8-9 pm with the help of a late afternoon snack. Most days we are home from work and day care around 5:45 or 6:00. Our daughter typically gets last night’s leftovers for dinner. While she eats, I make dinner for me and Scott. On really ambitious nights, I’ll bake some muffins or make a pot of soup for our lunches. After dinner it is family time, followed by Beryl’s bedtime around 7:30, and then road to nowhere time for me.
On the weekends, Scott and I flip a coin to see who gets the morning ride (morning ride = home during daughter’s afternoon nap = time to cook, clean, do laundry, or even just sit still for 60 mins). Since moving back to the US, we have also been lucky enough a handful of rides together while my mom babysits.
What I give up by racing.
My house isn’t spotless. Very very far from spotless.
We are never caught up with the laundry.
We eat a lot of pasta and sauce, rice and beans, and stirfry (with leftovers for lunch).
I don’t cook everything from scratch. Sometimes we eat tofu edamame nuggets from trader joes with steamed broccoli. Sometimes we eat frozen burritos and tamales.
I don’t always sit down with my daughter for dinner. Scott typically sits with her while I make the next night’s dinner.
It feels like I don’t have much time with my husband during the work week (but most marriages with young children probably feel this way).
Sometimes I feel bad about dragging our daughter to races.
We spend $$ to enter and pretty much always more $$ drinking a beer afterwards.
That is a pretty short list of drawbacks at the bottom of a lot of words about why I will keep racing.
* My 2014-2015 Goals
1) Have the courage to move up to Elite/Open class for cyclocross (unless there is a cash podium for masters!) :P
2) Find a team and commit to group rides
3) Do a road race (oh that is a scary one!)