How to Have a Ridiculously Good Time in a Bicycle Race
1. Make sure you arrange to have weather that is 71 degrees and sunny.
2. Drive down Lake Shore Drive. I don't think this needs any explanation whatsoever. Unless you are not from Chicago, in which case, you should drive down Lake Shore Drive right now and then you will fall madly in love with Chicago and you will know what I am saying here.
3. Listen to the new Snow Patrol CD.
4. Race with a friend that you love hanging out with.
I raced in the 1,2,3 women's race at Monsters because earlier in the week Kristen said, "Hey, why don't you race with me in the 1,2,3 race?" And I was like, "OK," because what fun does that sound like? Lots of fun.
Until I got to registration and the academic-seeming guy in the University of Chicago jersey who was talking to his friends in big long words that only people who go to Ivy League universities use said, "I'm assuming you're registering for the 1,2,3 race?"
Yes, I said. I am registering for the 1,2,3 race. I had to look down at my paint-stained Sun Valley, Idaho, t-shirt (long-sleeved, from a ski trip) and my grungy cargo pants (paint-stained also, from a clothes swap) and I wondered if he could see through me. No doubt he is a Chem major and he has invented some kind of potion that allows him to see the blood coursing through my veins and the muscle hidden inside my body and he has no doubt invented an algorithm that can tell him, just from looking at me across a table, how many watts I can produce at any given time and he can no doubt smell my cat 4ness.
That's when I took out my money.
Every bike race needs money, despite invented algorithms and poser open racers. And so, with the filling out of a few forms, I was in the women's 1,2,3 race.
My goal: stay with the field for 20 of the 45 minutes and then make sure to tell Kristen at the end that I am never doing this again.
Except that after 20 minutes was done, I was still with the group and thinking that I needed way more of a workout and also, it's 70 degrees and sunny so we should haul as much ass as possible because no doubt it's going to rain any minute and once it does we will have to go hide inside and then we will be really mad that we didn't take the opportunity to haul ass when it was 70 degrees and sunny.
There were attacks and none of them stuck, except that I was trying to cover them because I am trying to learn how to capture that moment right before an attack. There is a shift in the wind and a seemingly quick intake of breath from the group and a sudden slow motion of gear changing and then someone shoots off the front and you can catch that--that wave, that motion, that whoosh of whooshness--and you can go with it as long as you pick the right gear to go in and as long as your legs let you. So that's what I was doing, paying attention to those moments and trying to grab them. It's much like trying to grab fireflies out of the air on hot summer nights when you are six and playing with the other six-year olds in your neighborhood--you have to time it right.
As I said, nothing stuck. I think it's because the wind on the front stretch was pretty unkind. And the course is Illinois flat. And then a 2CC rider went off in what appeared to be an attack but may have been an early move for the prime and I went with her, but not really, since I was enough behind her to technically not be with her by anyone's definition and I just could not get my legs to turn over hard or fast enough. Kristen came up on my side and then powered up to the 2CC rider and they were off on their own little break and it was truly magnificent to see Kristen up there rocking it like that and the only thing better would've been to be there with her. And of course, to have the energy to say, "This is really fucking cool that we are in a break right now." I think I will save that for a race later in the summer, actually.
So I'm trying to get up to them, but I can't and I look back at the field because I think they are probably right on me but they are not. There is enough of a gap that I have to wait for just a few seconds, but those few seconds are all my legs need to turn to stone. I figure I'll just jump in the middle of the group and pray that I can catch a ride. But no, the group is pushing it because the 2 to go sign is up and now is so not the time to have stone legs. I try to get up in my saddle to catch the back end of the group and even that doesn't work. There is just no going with anything at this point and man, I am rethinking the chasing after the gaps earlier on except, no, I tell me, I am not going to rethink that because I just learned some profound lessons today and also, I am in a 1,2,3 race and I am STILL IN THE 1,2,3 RACE well after the 20 minutes I'd thought I'd be here and that is so way cool and then we take turn 1, turn 2, and the group goes and I have 1.5 laps left and I am all alone except for an ABD rider, who is nice, but obviously shot too and I am not about to hang my head.
Here comes Kristen coming back to me so I catch up to her, which is very painful, and tell her what a motherfucking goddess she is. She says, "Let's go get them," because the field is only a straightaway ahead of us. Little does Kristen know that at this point, the legs were already fast asleep. They mutiny at all the wrong times, these legs of mine. So we finish it off, coming in at the way back and I will tell you this right now: if you pay attention only to results pages and you never read race reports, you will never know what a rock star day this was. I highly recommend everyone racing with Kristen because, despite my insecurity at registration, I would do this a million more times without thinking twice about it.
No squirrels in the corners, either.
Shine on, you crazy diamonds.