I am a champion mountain bike racer. I race in the Midatlantic Super Series in the Elite women's class. It sounds so awe-inspiring, doesn't it? I must let you in on a little secret, though. I am one of the slowest in my class. Sure, I won money a couple times, but that's only because the race promoter was paying 10 deep, and only 10 women raced. Here's a picture of my last race where I was... last.
You may be wondering why the title of this blog is about being a champion. Well, the reason is because I was the 2010 Women's Sport Champion in MASS. This was an amazing accomplishment for me because of the short time I'd been riding, let alone racing.
I began road riding with George in August of 2008. We rode twice a week until fall came. Soon the days became too short, and we were down to one ride per week, weather permitting. I went through bike withdrawal. I toyed with the idea of mountain biking for a few months and then finally took out a demo bike from Action Wheels. As I rode a Specialized FSR XC through the trails of Camden County College, I had so much fun that I was grinning ear to ear. When a bike speaks to you like that, you listen and hand over your credit card. I have no regrets!
I was voracious with my riding. I wanted to ride as much as possible, work on obstacles that gave me problems, and get fast enough to keep up with George and his friends. I made the move to clipless pedals and began to fall regularly. I started improving and by April of 2009, people started telling me I should race in the Beginner Women's class. I thought they were insane. Me???? I'd never done anything competitive in my life. Besides the gym, I'd never done anything athletic either! I brushed it off and said, "No, there's no way I could race. I'm too new."
This mindset changed when I accompanied George to the Fair Hill Bike Line race in the spring of 2009. He lined up with the Beginner Men 30-34 and took off like a shot. I stood and watched the other classes launch and then the women lined up. I was so impressed by them when they started. I saw them all push off, get clipped in, and go. They had determined expressions. They were going fast. I felt something inside me flutter. I could do that! Later, I watched the Sport women launch and I wondered it I'd ever be that fast. (George did well at that race.)
By the end of the summer, I improved my skills and got faster as well. I timed myself at Gloucester County College's local mountain bike course. I went at race pace for two laps. I was shocked to see that with my times, I would have been first in Women's Beginner and 4th in Women's Sport. That was the day I decided I would sign up to race the next year.
My training began. I knew I'd be racing 7 mile laps in the Beginner class. The problem is that I got too fast. Soon, people were telling me that I should skip Beginner and start in the Sport class. I resisted, at first because I thought you had to start in Beginner, and later because I thought that my best chance of winning the series was in the Beginner class. Then my riding buddy, Mike told me that if I won in Beginner, I wouldn't feel good about it. He even said I'd look like a sandbagger. Ug, that dirty word! (A sandbagger is someone who races below their level in order to get an easy win.)
About 3 weeks before the first race of the 2010 season, I went on a training ride with some of the guys from Danzeisen & Quigley. I rode well and finally listened when they also said that I should move up to Sport. So I did the honorable thing. I emailed MASS and asked them to reassign my category. Being a small local series, it was no big deal for them to meet my request. I lined up with the Sport women in April 2010, scared and just getting over a cold. I raced my heart out that day!
I was timid in the line up and ended up in the back when the start gun when off. After the first climb, we went over a bridge. George was yelling for me to get up to the front, so I stood up and powered past about 15 women. I sat in behind a group of 4, with the 2 leaders almost out of sight. I passed those 4 women over the course of the next few miles. I held 3rd place and finished the race fatigued and shaky. I was ecstatic to stand on the podium and win a 50 cent medal. I was hopelessly hooked on racing and loving every minute of it.
I hit the podium in almost every race that season. I won the championship and never felt more proud in my life. I thought I'd given up the chance at winning a series jersey when I skipped Beginner. To win the series in Sport was something I hadn't dreamed I could do!
Hmmmm, what? Oh, yes, I'm awake. Back to reality. I'm in Elite now and I'm getting my butt kicked. I know the successes of the past are nice, but I have a new goal now. I want to get faster. I want to be mid-pack in Elite. I hope to get there by the end of the season, but I don't know if that's possible. Next season, I want to consistently be mid-pack or better. I've got a whole training regimen, I've been tested to get my VO2 max, LT, and lung efficiency numbers. I rest appropriately. I am constantly learning about training, nutrition, recovery, and equipment. I have nowhere to go but up, and I WILL be moving up!
I'll be racing on Sunday at the Fair Hill Classic. Check back for a race report and pictures.
I, too, am getting my butt kicked in elite...
I keep telling myself it's okay because you don't get to the elite level by being slow. I won my sport class way back in 2007.
Every year since, I've been faced with obstacles that kept me from ever getting an expert/elite season off the ground...this year I am finally dipping my toes into it & barely hanging on! Looking forward to Fair Hill. Nice post :)
The Bikinator said...
The years of experience will definitely help you. I feel that my newness to the sport is a big part of the reason for my results. I just need to put in my time. See you at the race tomorrow!