Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I don't like being late

People who know me will confirm my general punctuality. I hate that feeling realizing that there may be others waiting on ME. I do not like shuffling quickly looking disheveled to meet someone. I am generally an early person. This dates back to my infant years. I teethed early, potty trained early, walked 3 months early, began reading before Kindergarten. Why? Because I do not like to be late and apparently I did not like this feeling even before I had a true concept of time.

I have a great amount of appreciation and respect for cycling. I can say without a doubt that cycling is that ONE thing that can actually wear me out. It is that one thing that I constantly have to work on. So when I decided to race, it seemed natural except for one thing: I'm late. (Hopefully, you read the first paragraph to understand this is NOT what I like).

When I get on the line, a lot of the women around me have been racing for years...some since childhood. There are those few who have not raced that much...here...there...maybe one, two or three races a year. There are others who have not missed a race and thankfully to an imaginary pot of gold, a wealthy spouse, never ending trust fund, or lucky scratch off lottery ticket, they can afford a cycling lifestyle of leisure, travel and training. Then, there is myself...a self-proclaimed weekend warrior that trains when I can but it's only so I can finish a race...not because I expect to be the next pro women's racer in Louisville, Kentucky. The level of dedication and skill to attain that is quite a bit out of reach.

You would think having a cycling b/f would be an asset. He's got years of experience and certainly the love for the sport. Just imagine all the idle tips I hear on our rides together...all the useful examples, the cheering at a race. Well...reality is...he is completely and utterly burned out on cycling. If he were a candle there would be no wick left to burn. He has the time and the talent but since we have been dating, we have actually had (2) rides together. Of course, if I asked him for advice, he would always leave it up to my choice anyway. Again...the consequences of being late.

I know what you are thinking...."man, she is biiitchy today"...and it's not about being bitchy. I would NEVER have clipped my foot to a pedal unless I didn't want to. I generally make up my mind to do something...and do it. I rarely wait around for others to give me approval or switch an imaginary green light. I go. I do it. I try it.

I just have to wonder what it would be like sometimes if I had started this 10-years earlier...thank goodness they have not invented time machines. I would be in one in a minute if I could. C'mon Willy Wonka...help a girl out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Maybe next year...

Racing through the beach...
All the talk leading up to this weekend was about the USGP. Louisville finally opened the cyclocross dedicated course overlooking the Ohio River and people were so anxious to get their tubulars out there they could taste the fresh sod planted firmly between their teeth. One month ago...I think I remember being pretty excited to ride the Green Monster...which EVERYONE talks about. (FYI: The Green Monster is NOT a real, live monster, it is actually a stair case followed by a steep slope that you must run up carrying your bike, remount, and ride down--NO real monsters are every harmed during this race). This is always noted as one of the hardest races of the season.

However, life, as it does, got in the way, smack dab in the middle of my training (how dare you life!). My job requires that I work long days and sometimes this interrupts my training. You cannot do a cyclocross race without some training throughout the week. If you attempt to do this because you believe that you are some star athlete, a true badass blessed with amazing physical strength, I promise, you will F-A-I-L. You MUST practice for cyclocross racing or the only thing you will see on the start line are the rears of others pulling out in front of you leaving you in a cloud of dust.

The new course has definitely been the carrot dangling in front of cyclists for weeks now. We have seen all the bulldozers, volunteers and signs going in. We are one of the ONLY cities in the country with a cyclocross course. As I became a spectator on Saturday, I realized very quickly, this course is nothing to laugh at. The sandpit is actually a replica of Myrtle Beach (not really but some people said it felt like it) as it stretched on for quite a distance. The run ups nearly required mountaineering supplies and if I thought it were just my imagination....even some of the pro's dismounted to get to the top of this thing. So, if I doubted myself for even a second believing that I could have rode the course cold and unprepared...within 10-minutes of watching the first few races, I realized I made the right choice and saved myself excruciating embarrassment and pain.

Cyclists feel the need to give VERY elaborate excuses as to why they are not racing especially when confronted by other cyclists (gulp!). There is a lot of pressure to perform for yourself, your teammates and others.  However, I did not even have the strength to do that (nor the desire). I could have feigned illness, injury or even emotional distress but I opted for honesty instead...saying, "I didn't want to." There is something to be said about being a spectator not having the pressure to warm up, race, and then recover. My Sunday ride was a true training ride with repeats, sprints, and delicate spinning to close out the 2.0+ hour ride. It's just a hobby afterall...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cyclocross turns you into a D&^%!

Forget excited happy cheering faces as you lap your way through some manmade obstacle nightmare frought with ruts, potholes, walnuts and natural log crossings! Forget about people smiling and wishing you well telling you how good you look or reminding you that you can make it across the finish. Those fans are rare and for the most part…DO NOT EXIST! Cyclocross racing is about being a real a$$ (insert other derogatory body part here) to all your friends (the term "friend" is subjective meaning they may be real friends or only weird stalker types you have accepted a request from on Facebook). Even if you are in first place with a 20-second gap on the nearest contender…you will likely hear something to the effect of “STOP SUCKING!” or “You are going to get lapped!” as you try to maintain your lead. This robust and barbaric activity is not limited to the fans…it is accepted as part of the cyclocross culture on and off the race course.

Smack talking starts with the sound of the whistle

Not actual commentary but somewhat close...  
If I had to trace the origins of such banter, I would say it was a bunch of Vikings. Basically when I think of anything barbaric....I think of Vikings so that's how I relate the two. Who else but a group of bearded burly men hell bent on proving their manhood could only have conjured up the carnage, pain, and dire stress one voluntarily puts their body through called cyclocross. Okay, the Vikings had absolutely NOTHING to do with cyclocross but you have to admit, it would be really bad a$$ if they did.

The cyclocross scene is a menagerie of odd personality types from the happy go lucky family guy with wife, 2-3 super cute kids in tow, and a dog wagging his/ her tail to the hardcore biker guy who drove over 4 hours to race and hour and will probably sleep in his car before hitting the road back home to eat a can of Spaghetti O's he has had in his trunk for a week. He will not smile or talk to anyone because he must affirm his seriousness of the sport and general “bad-assness.” Either way….when the race is on, smack talking slicks up the ruts and tight turns much faster than any rain storm. I know what you are thinking…”what about the women? Do they do that too?”The answer is YES…yes, the women are JUST as rude to each other.

I'm pretty sure this was the EXACT thought going through my head at that moment
The docile sweet creature known as “woman” is generally thought of as nurturing, caring and incapable of being mean. NOTHING could be further from the truth on the cyclocross course where shouts, spitting, and name-calling start from the first pedal stroke after the whistle. That “idealistic” view of women that we are helpful creatures is nothing but bologna on a course where at any minute you will crash, fall or wreck your body into a tree. Even when a fellow rider falls and you see her slap her head against the ground (it bounced), you keep going and hope to not be tangled in the mess of legs, hair, and bike parts.

So this means during a race, every side is yelling obscenities, insults, and preying on all of a riders weaknesses. As if the embarrassment of a skin suit weren’t enough to show off ANY bodily flaw…try having someone suggest they have to adjust their shutter speed because you are going too slow. Try having someone within inches of your face say “you might want to start pedaling today so we can get home before dark"...When racing I have found it is best to laugh briefly and NOT engage in any further chatting as that will destroy your breathing. You will get your turn when you get on the other side of the tape.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I need your help lady GaGa...

I am presently looking to adopt a game face (or the poker face as Lady GaGa sings) if I can find one that suits me. If someone has one lying around, I will be happy to take it off your hands so long as it is a good one meant to invoke pain and emotion in pictures. I have been so concerned with pinning my number on the correct side, slathering on enough embrocation, warming up, eating, drinking and getting to the line on time that I have neglected to bring my game face to the start.

Apparently, my game face comes out on the course, around lap two far away from prying eyes and professional camera lenses. This is a cyclocross race FAIL. I have heard that rumor women do not have game faces...this is false and I must put this lie to bed for the next race.

You will hear people yell at you to "smile" on the course throughout the race while ringing a loud cow bell in your face (I swear its more fun than it sounds). It is a bit of irony that accompanies the sport. It's hard to think about turning the corners of your mouth upward when you feel like your lungs and legs may completely explode off of your body creating tissue shrapnel across the race course. It's hard to smile when you look ahead and see a ghastly sand pit and women piling up in it like dead fish. Yet, I seem to be able to pull that off okay.

Spectators seem to love it more when you really show pain. Perhaps it is that human connection or pure sick infatuation with pain and emotion. Either way...I need to do a better job of expressing myself out there besides having heated dialogue in my head.