Lets talk about my first USA Cycling sanctioned event. I've raced a handful of "cookie" Metric races (cookie races are cycling races with a podium but no actual awards or points granted. Its a race for pride. So yea, Its a effing race! ) I believe I'm a strong rider and had been putting in a lot of work throughout the winter.. on the trainer...mostly because I'm a total princess when my feet get cold. Any who, on this day I was humbled by a pack of 40 aggressive, tough women. Its worth mentioning that throughout my career as a race car driver and a race car mechanic I have been the only female among men 99.6% of the time. That said, I was beyond happy to find other women, like myself, on those South Carolina roads that day. They were aggressive, they were pushing through pain, shouting at one another and fighting for a win. I loved it. They were like me. FINALLY. Women like me! If I wasn't hooked yet, I was sure to be hooked now!
I found flaws in my fitness and I made a lot of mistakes that I had been warned about. I felt strong on my first of two laps but probably too anxious for my own good. Somewhere around halfway, I suppose I thought I was a Cat 1 rider and took off up a big hill and couldn't hang. Well, I thought I couldn't hang. After looking at data, I was very wrong. I let them get away and I know now that I had gas in the tank to run them down. So what happened? I lacked confidence. I mentally got beat. And even worse I got beat by who? That's right, myself. I got beat by the girl who suffered with me on a trainer for 10 hours a week. It was all mental. I dropped like a rock and lost the leaders for absolutely no reason. Why would I be willing to go to the hurt box on a random lunch ride with the boys but not in my first USAT race? After much contemplation I chalk it up to the unknowing. If I start striking matches at halfway will I have legs to go at the end? That was the doubt in my mind. Hindsight: strike away. The win was marching away from me. What good is it to have legs at the end if you drop to the chase pack and at the end the best position you are racing in for 17th overall? Lesson learned. Better to get dropped twice and have nothing left at the end rather than do exactly what I did.
What I did next wasn't much better. I continued to spiral out of control. How can I screw this race up? Oh, ok! I'll do that! I sat in the chase pack and did too much work off the front trying to catch the leaders. Smarter girls wouldn't pull through and if they did pull through they didn't sit on the front - towing the pack. Well, don't worry readers! This one did. They'd cheer me on and tell me "good job" I totally fell for it!
And finally. The final lesson learned that day... Know where the finish line is. I took off in what felt like the my best sprint of my life only to find myself too far from the finish and I got passed by 4 riders who knew exactly where the finish line was. Salt in the wounds, let me tell ya.
Let's recap: Ride a strong first half. Drop to chase group and then don't even win the race in the chase group? COME ON AP! Get your stick on the ice! I took the bait, I didn't sit in, I didn't ride smart, I didn't have confidence in myself and I got beat. Bad. I finished 7th out of 16 (Cat 4) and somewhere mid pack overall.
Since I'm a very positive person. This stuff only seems negative when written down. I took away a lot of lessons from this race that I will surely never do again. LOL. Ok I'll try, Shits hard, However, for the confidence part. I learned a long time ago that confidence comes from understanding and knowing. So therefore, I need to know more. I have to study my craft and with that will bring confidence.