I asked (what I thought was) a benign question last week: For ladies who don’t race their bikes, I’m wondering what your reason is not to.
It wasn’t meant as a judgment statement, more like a get-to-the-point kinda question. I want to see more women on bikes and more women racing them. Instead of asking women who don’t even ride, let alone, own a bike, I assumed asking in a Facebook group for women who bike in Colorado would get my questioned answered quicker.
I definitely think there is a line between racing and riding, but I can’t figure out the line. What convinces a woman to try out racing? What prevents a woman from racing? While I continue to sort through the trolls and the meaningful responses, I’ll offer my personal experience going from couch potato to riding for exercise (at the gym) to training for my first century to racing and leading a women’s road racing team.
I’ve written about my history with exercise and how much I used to hate it. It felt like a punishment more than anything. Seeing what my body is capable of now compared to my sloth days, it’s encouraging and drives me to constantly push myself.
Let me preface this with how I didn’t like sports. I didn’t play them and I certainly didn’t watch them. I also didn’t own a bike the first time Jared asked me to ride bikes with him. I had to borrow my cousin’s outgrown mountain bike.
The first time I had to pedal that hunk of metal up a hill, I knew how out of shape I was, especially seeing Jared at the top waiting for me. I think I was able to ride ten miles that day. Nothing special.
Enough rides with the red mountain bike convinced me I had to get a lighter bike. We checked out a few places and I considered buying a hybrid bike for economical purposes. I’m glad Jared convinced me otherwise, leading me to buying Bullseye, a Giant Avail. I got a good deal since it was the previous year’s model.
As we walked out of the shop, Jared half-jokingly said, “Now you can start training for E-Rock.” I laughed hesitantly because I knew he was serious but was gauging my interest through a joke.
Thus began my training for my first 100-mile bike ride.
I didn’t have a trainer so I rode the gym upright stationary bikes during the week and jumped on Bullseye on the weekends. Those were the days that all we had on our radar were training rides.
At this point I did not know about local road racing. Totally oblivious to anything like USAC or BRAC. Often during these organized bikes rides, I’d see matching jerseys and it looked like teams or clubs. It piqued my interest, but I wouldn’t start looking to join a club until the following year. Then that time came. As Jared became more enamored with the idea of triathlon, I started seeking out clubs to join. I didn’t know how to find a club, so I Google’d it, as my generation does. It brought up BRAC’s website with clubs. I picked the club nearest to me without much thought, which is still my current team, pedal RACING. I originally joined pedal’s club because I did not want to race, I just wanted people to ride with on the weekends when Jared started doing his triathlon.
Even though the club didn’t race, it was intimidating as hell to meet with all the women the first time. I felt like a total n00b even with all the rides I did the previous year. The women shared possible races and I sat there in silence, questioning my abilities for a club. I quickly realized everyone had different goals whether that was racing or participating in an organized ride. After hearing about the races, I became quickly intrigued by the idea of racing, but also totally scared to take on an endeavor like that.
My first year on pedal RACING, my only taste in racing was the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series – a 7 week-long Wednesday night time trial race at Cherry Creek State Park. It was hard, intimidating, and I beat myself up after every race when I saw my results. The disappointment lasted that night and by the following week I was ready to beat last week’s time. I came in fifth overall and I didn’t like myself for it. I didn’t race the rest of the season. I thought I sucked too much to continue. I stuck with the organized rides where I figured I could go at my own pace and not be judged. By the end of the season, I was hankering for more races.
The next year on pedal RACING, I actually registered on the race side since I met the low qualifications: compete in three races. I did that the first three weeks of the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series, so I was set. I had to buy a USAC and BRAC license in addition to a pedal RACING kit. I told myself I needed to be serious. I was also voted as the women’s road lead. No pressure.
This time, I got third place overall for the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series and throughout the season, found myself on the podium more times than not. Even after having to take almost a month off of racing due to a giant saddle sore that would not heal, I had enough points to Cat up to a Three by the end of the season.
Was I scared? You bet your ass. I was in the toilet ten minutes before every race from all my nerves.
Intimidated? Hard yes. I questioned my abilities before, during, and after lining up with other women road racers. I felt like an imposter, like I didn’t actually have skills to race with them.
Did it consume my time? Yep. My friends eventually stopped inviting me to outings because they knew the answer. I didn’t want to stay out late when I had a race the next day and my weekends were dedicated to racing. My family knew to stop asking my weekend plans because they knew what they were.
How about money? Ooooh yeah. I spent a ton of money racing.
Racing isn’t for everyone. I get it. But I think a lot of people who would race don’t because they’re scared. I was petrified and still get nervous before every race. I want to see more women out racing. I want the fields to be as big as the men. I want more competition among women. I want more friends among my competition. Racing is fun. Racing doesn’t need to take the fun out of riding a bike. That only happens if you decide to let it not be fun anymore – and if you get to that point in your racing career, where it’s no longer fun, then stop. I hope to see you on the race course.