To say “I got my ass kicked” would be an understatement.
After a two week break from cycling I decided I wanted to throw myself into a UCI cyclocross race. With high expectations for myself, but a lack of high intensity training to boast, I was under prepared for what was to come.
Saturday morning was a cold and rainy Rhode Island day. I was incredibly excited to race in the mud for the first time, in hopes of finishing the race looking like a racoon - the coverage provided by my sunglasses marking the only skin not covered in mud.
I arrived at the start full of confidence and nerves. I received my call up and carefully selected my start position - on the inside line but not too far inside. “30 second warning, FIRE IN THE HOLE!” the announcer wailed as the air around me grew hushed and the ladies prepared for battle. The whistle blew. I pulled up hard on the handlebars trying to clip in and POW found myself smacking the ground, my bike flying to the other side of the start corral. This is so embarrassing. I scurried over to grab my bike, hopped back on and tried to pedal. The chain had fallen off. With shaking hands I tried to reset the chain as quickly as I could. By the time I remounted and started my race the field was already around the second turn. I put my head down and took some risks to catch back up.
I rode hard on the first day but it was not enough. My technical skills were relatively poor, as these were conditions I had never experienced before. I rode the seven miles back to the hotel in the pouring rain, ordered a burrito, and told myself it could only get better tomorrow.
On Sunday the wind chill drove the temperatures down into the 20’s. I pre-rode the course finding that much of the mud had dried up and only a few dicey, muddy, root-stricken sections remained. I rolled up to the starting line and awaited the countdown, this time with gloves on to avoid any slippage.
The whistle blew and was able to clip my foot into the pedal immediately. I stomped down on my pedals as hard as I could without touching wheels or knocking anyone down, yet the field still seemed to glide away from me. I made it to the beach run and told myself to run hard in order to pass some people. I was able to do so but was still stuck in the last group.
I spent the race in the back, somehow unable to gain any spots no matter how much I tried. I could move up until a muddy, technical section approached, when someone would pass me right back. I lacked the ability to sprint out of every corner, which I now realize is KEY to staying in the race. I finished nearly in last, confused, dejected, and beaten down mentally. I felt like such a newbie and so out of place. I had rode to the race each morning and warmed up in a grass field while all of the other girls rode on their trainers under their team tents. At the starting line I was the outsider, as most of the girls knew each other and had raced together for years already. Hell, this was only my fourth cyclocross race ever!
After riding back to the hotel Sunday afternoon I had a solid nine hours of travel ahead of me to reflect on the weekend (and play endless rounds of Candy Crush). After shedding some tears and feeling sorry for myself I gave myself a little slap on the face (as if the races had not already done so), and decided to take this experience and learn how to be in the lead group next year. These are the lessons I learned:
This experience was incredibly humbling and in the end I have some valuable knowledge to take away from it. I am so thankful for being able to even toe the line in these races and for all of the friends and family who support me no matter what place I finish. I would not have even been able to start this cyclocross adventure without the unwavering support of All4Cycling. Endless gratitude goes out to my A4C family - for the last minute tire changes, the innumerable post-ride beers, and most importantly, the exceptional people who comprise it.
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.