THIS WAS A REAL BIKE RACE (and awesome vacation experience #6789)
Yesterday I raced the first bike race I have raced in about 2 years. This was a momentous event for me, mostly because I finally accepted the irrationality of paying someone in order to experience pain. Really, when you think about it, it's like taxes, but with cooler terrain. This bike race took place in beautiful Hales Corners, Wisconsin, around a garden of botanicality, which was really, really pretty.
My goals for this race were as follows:
1. Stay with the field, preferably to the end.
2. Climb at your own pace (may or may not be a direct contradiction of #1).
3. Do. Not. Give. Up.
To be sure, I was nervous as hell for this one. This was a Superweek Race, which means people from New Zealand show up, and it also means that really, half the field should be racing in a higher category and they're really in this particular race to toy with those of us who cry really easily when faced with hill repetitions. But lo! At the start, I had a realization: it was sunny and 75 degrees outside, I was about to ride my bicycle around a really pretty park, and I have a blood clot in my left knee and a blood disorder that encourages it and I am not dead. From that perspective, a 30-mile bike race looks pretty awesome.
The starter official guy was laid back and in his laconic speech cadence he said, "Ok, when you're ready, go." And so we did. Quick left, snaky S-curves that you could cut the apex on and take as a straight line, slight downhill, left turn, down some more, slight right, slight kicker hill that somehow pitched a bit more right in the middle, plateau, little kicker hill, down, curve left, uphill that was easy as long as you took it with momentum, curve left, some more stuff that I could take easily so you know the rest of the field probably filed their nails during this part, curve right, then the course narrowed significantly and we rolled through a slew of intense potholes that were not patched but conveniently marked with bright orange circles and which I soon learned to take on the way left side, sprint out of that mess to the left, then a sloping curve to the right, bit of a down slope, 90-degree turn, immediate bitch ass tough climb but short, little flat respite after, but not much because then a very tiny kicker hill which was excruciating after 13 reps, then curve to the right and sprint to finish line. Easy, right?
Attacks went off at 8 to go, 7 to go, 5 to go, and 1 to go. The 1 to go attack stuck. I referred myself to Goal #1 and did whatever I could to stay with the field--this meant a lot of mumbling to myself, which was articulated in my head as, "Um, OK, like, you are going to have to suck it up right now because these people are pushing the pace right now," but which I think actually came out of my mouth as, "#$#&%$#^%$#^%#^%$#%$#^%#^%. Shit." There were two particularly difficult accelerations that I thought were gonna crack me, but I referred to Goal #3 and #4, and did the aforementioned sucking up and voila! I caught back on to the field. In all honesty, I can't believe I was able to do that. I think maybe the field wasn't pushing it too hard because I have a hard time believing I stayed with a field of that quality.
And then that 5 to go attack happened, which I think was a result of the beautiful Pascale getting her groove on, and I thought to myself, "Well, if I make it halfway through this race, that's respectable." And then I heard a car horn behind me and there it was--the sweeper car. Coming up behind me. And you know what? I don't like the sweeper car. It's a sad day to see that thing and while I know the tapped horn honk was a "I'm just letting you know I'm here" honk, in my head it was really a loud gonging bell that was saying, "WHERE ARE YOUR GUTS, MORRIS?" And so I turned back around, eyeballed the field, and cranked my ass right back up to them, where I stayed for the rest of the race.
With one to go, I was very aware of the fact that I was in a group of women who were On The Hunt, which is kinda scary, and not in a I'm-at-a-meat-market-bar kinda way, more like a Tigers-Protecting-Their-Young scary. I tried as hard as I could to make it up that hill for the 13th time and guess what? I did it. And I tried as hard as I could to sprint to the line and guess what? I couldn't get out of the saddle. I just didn't have it in me. As it turned out, I finished 23 out of 39, which may seem to you to be resoundingly mediocre, but to me, it's exactly what I was going for and you know what? I'll take medicore for now, because exactly one year ago this week I sat in a hemotologist's office and I listened as this petite woman with high cheekbones put her tiny hand on my wrist and said, calmly and condescendingly, "Honey, you're not going to be able to race your bike anymore."
She was wrong.