Race Anecdotes: Imposter syndrome at Boulder Roubaix

It took me writing about the Boulder Roubaix race several times to learn how to correctly spell “Roubaix.” The race comes every two years and in 2017, there was no amount of white chocolate or kombucha that would have convinced me to give it a go.

Fast forward to 2019, add a dash of dirt and unpaved experience, and there I am, paying $55+tax to suffer with 13 of my closest cycling friends. And I was nervous.

Originally, I made it my “A” race, an important, get-me-some-upgrade-points kind of race. That was, until I previewed the course and lost any modicum of confidence I once had. As soon as I pulled up to my car and dusted off, I updated my TrainingPeaks account with “C.”

C for coward.

C for chickenshit.

I didn’t think I was being negative, I was “realistic.” I knew I didn’t have the bike handling skills others possessed, so “realistically,” I could assume they’d do better than me. I’m realizing I always assume others are better than me.

I still planned to do my best and face my gravel fears, but I also didn’t expect to podium.

The race went about 80% as I expected: I charged to the front at the beginning of the race to get away from any possible crashes. Once we hit the pavement and I had been pulling the group for 8 minutes, I sat up and waved them on.

I’d lose the group on any dirt descents or sandy turns, and then I’d have to sprint to catch up. There was no way I was gonna podium.

At the beginning of the second lap, I heard the other women saying there were three racers ahead. We all agreed to work together to try to catch up to them. We caught up with one woman and then we joked that we were racing for third. “Ah hell,” I thought, “I’m not too good for third.” I noticed I was able to keep up my power on the hills and my legs felt pretty good. I’d usually end up in front of the group by the time we hit the top of the hills.

On the last section of a couple hills in a row, I managed to discreetly pass the women in the front. I looked behind me as I crossed the top and noticed they were a few bike lengths behind. I remembered what Anna told me once, “race to fail.” I already didn’t think I had a chance to make the podium so I risked an “attack.” I’d hardly consider it that way, but then again, it’s what I did. I like to say I “punched it.”

So, I “punched” as soon as I realized I had a small chance to get away. Normally, folks wouldn’t attack and free solo a mile and a half from the finish, but I guess I’m not like most folks. We were still on dirt and I had to descend. Oh, if you could hear the thoughts that run rampant in my head. As I raced downhill, I told myself, “gets over it.” “Just go.”

And I kept doing this on all the parts that freaked me out. It’s easier to forget your fears when there are bigger things chasing you – like a pack of women. I continually looked behind me, assuming they’d catch up. I made it over the last little hill, hearing “PEDAAAAAL” and “let’s go, McWhirt!!!” and there was probably ¾ of a mile left until the finish. I mean, it felt like forever. It felt like I should have hit new power numbers. I wheezed. I drooled. Snot was flying.

I saw the 500 meter sign. I looked behind me. No one near. I continued to charge.

I kept saying, “give me this. Come on.”

250 meter sign zoomed past my right side. I expected a group of women to fly past me. I looked back, no one.

Then the 100 meter sign. “Comeoncomeoncomeon.”

I looked back once more. “No fucking way,” I thought. I crossed the finish line without any contenders. I free solo’d. I didn’t believe I’d get third. I anxiously awaited the posted results. And then boom, printer on an 8 ½ x 11 paper, there was my name in third place.

As soon as I saw my name, my imposter syndrome flared up like my plantar fasciitis.

“I can’t believe that worked. They must not have noticed.”

“They were probably just tired.”

“How did that even happen? I’m not even good on dirt.”

“I thought they’d catch me the whole time.”

“I got lucky.”

I didn’t think I deserved to get third place. I wasn’t all that good with dirt and I considered myself an “okay” Cat 3. I looked at my power numbers and they weren’t anything to write home about.

Imposter Syndrome: “Someone who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes.”

I’m a mix of Superwoman, Soloist, and Perfectionist. If I don’t meet my unrealistic goal 100%, I feel like I’ve failed. If I have to ask for help in anything, I feel like I’ve failed. If I’m not succeeding in ALL aspects of life, I feel like I’ve failed.

I took the Imposter Syndrome Test and I have it hard. You can take it too, here.

I honestly don’t know where I get all these issues. I don’t know why I can’t just have confidence or be proud of myself. I know personally that I feel like in order to be loveable, I need to achieve, well, everything. I realize how damaging and fucking stressful something like that can be. My wish for anyone reading this is to know that people love you for you, for how you make them feel, not for shit you do.

If you’re finding yourself suffering from Imposter Syndrome, I found a list of ways to combat it. Check it out here.

Some of my faves include realizing that we’re not that important as in, stop thinking the world revolves around you. I also appreciate the fact that he says no one has it figured out, they’re just brave and continue to experiment even after failure. Finally, writing about it. I love to write and if I could, I’d spend the day doing it.

I think a lot of overachievers suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in their life and the best thing to do when you’re second-guessing yourself is to ask: does this thought help or hinder me? If it isn’t helpful, stop wasting time ruminating.

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