A Disclaimer of sorts: (for those who have never met me) I am perpetually late. I have no sense of time what-so-ever; this condition worsens with fatigue or lack of sleep.
And so begins my Race experience.
Getting packed For the Race (done the night before, of course!)
What does one need for a race? Since this was my first, I wasn’t sure, but it couldn’t be much more than what one needs for a ride. I put this check list together, and followed it to the ‘T’…
- THE LIST:
2 PB and J’s
10 water bottles
Cooler with ice
Sweet new and fresh TEAM CF KIT (outfit/uniform)
Tire fixing gear
Directions to Race.
Got it all and I'm off to bed!
I was tucked in, comfy, tired and got NO SLEEP! That’s a lie. But, I was so nervous about the possibility of being late to the starting line that I woke up ever few hours to make sure my alarm hadn’t gone off. When the alarm actually went off, I was less then ‘well rested’ and I had to work on my backup generator.
Breakfast of Champions!
Although I am an avid cereal fan, milk just didn’t seem like the right choice for a bouncy bumpy throw your body around kind of day, especially since my stomach was already in knots. So, I went with my old friend, toasted double decker PB and J. This is a surefire way to give me energy, and it never messes with my stomach and enzymes. Toasted for your tasting pleasure, double stacked for muscular energy.
OFF WE GO!
Because the race was early, my fan base (my immediate family) met me there just before the race began. This meant I was on my own trying to get to the race. (Haha never a good idea.) I loaded up my little truck, said a little prayer that it would make it to the race, and headed out.
Driving away from my house, all I could think was that at the end of the day I wanted to a report just like I had been seeing: “Another First place win for TEAM CF”.
I remember when I first met the girls, Nikki and Kristin; I had come across a picture of them on a podium with their arms raised high, and metals round their necks. I came to learn that they had many of these pictures, but on this morning that picture was the only image in my head. I wanted one just like it.
As all of these great and inspirational thoughts were swirling around in my head, I was driving in the wrong direction. Typical. I left on time, and drove 20 minutes in the opposite direction. Once it came to my attention that Jersey is not North of Philly, which was the direction I was headed, I reached for directions. I had laid them out the night before on the kitchen table. They were clear as day so I wouldn’t forget where they were. Nope, I knew EXACTLY where they were. But, little help that give me on highway 476. Had I remembered to bring the kitchen table, the directions would be on it, and I would be good to go. I got off at the nearest exit and pulled a ‘U’ey, and tried to remember the way from memory. I may be back at getting out of the house, but generally once I have been there, I can find my way around an area pretty well.
To my advantage, I had left so early that when I finally made it to the course, I was only 15 minutes behind schedule. It is entirely a habit of my Dad’s to leave with an hour and half to get somewhere when it is only 20 minutes away. So, consequently, when I’m not running around making my self late for no good reason, I end up leaving ridiculously early.
When I got there, I saw Nikki waiting in the parking lot. She was on the phone, calling me to see where I was. As I pulled into the parking spot, Nikki approached the car.
“Gah! Hey Nikki” says I
“Hey Kid. You got lost, didn’t you?” - Nikki
“Yeah” Says I as I trip over my own foot stepping out of my door.
“Haha! Thought so. Let’s go get you registered” Nikki lead the way to a tent with some familiar faces and everyone seemed to know Nikki.
As we waited in line to registered some lady came up to me with a Sharpe marker. She adamantly displayed the marker in her hand which was held on the same level as her face.
“What category are you in!?” She asked.
“Ummm…” – I hadn’t thought about that before.
“Women’s beginner 1” Nikki answered and as she did so the lady disappeared from view and I felt a tickle on my calf.
“What?! Is she doing!” I thought
She had written 'W1' on my calf and popped back into sight, given a smile and moved onto the next rider. This seemed to be a tight knit community which I was getting myself into.
After registration, I was to warm up. My nerves were obvious, as I fumbled my way onto my bike for a warm up ride. Every time I get nervous, I fall off my bike. Just fall. On the first ride I went on with my Dad, I fell off 4 times before hitting the course. I was concerned that he would get hurt and I wouldn’t be able to find him. It’s not an impressive showing when you look so fly in a blue biking kit and a sweet ride, and can’t navigate pavement. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. He’s a natural and showed me how to jump logs and go downhill over roots.
When I returned from my warm-up, I was relieved to find my whole family: Maggie and Bernadette (ma soeurs), the Toids (parents), and Marc (Maggie’s fiancé).
All categories lined up at the start line, and we moved up as each category took off. I was eyeing up my competition and trying to get my head in the game.
“Let it Roll” “Strength and Courage”
These are positive phrases Kristin had helped me come up with to keep my head in a good spot throughout the race. ‘Let it roll’ refers to the bike. If you let it roll over things, it will, so don’t stop it. Unlike when I run cross country, I was positive I would make it through the bike race alive. So, instead of focusing on my fatigue as I usually do in Cross country, I could focus on having the strength to keep pushing forward and the courage to do so, knowing it was possible.
At the starting line, I was prepped and ready to find a position in the pack close to the front if I could, so I could go into the single track with a heads up. The count and GO!
Surprisingly the other girls didn’t have the sprint start I was waiting for, so I took the lead without much hesitation. However, just before you enter the single track (woods) there is a very short steep hill. I didn’t adjust my gears in time, and gravity got the best of me and my rapidly decreasing speed: I was down.
Hop up; get back on the bike and go!
I took and deep breathe and entered the course. A quick down hill, into a field for a short bit and then back into the woods. The roots on this course are very prominent and extra slippery that day. The narrow and winding trail made it very difficult to ride over the roots without slipping. So I fell; A lot. For the first 15 minutes of the course it was a back and forth battle between me and a fellow racer. Both of us were super pumped and falling all over the place. First she would slip, and I would take the lead, then vice versa. Eventually however, she slipped and I saw my opportunity to take off and ran with it.
At this point I wanted to fly. I was going as fast as I could to gain distance just incase the worst happened; A flat.
Luckily, I did not get a flat. I kept trucking through the little creek, and the dessert like area, back to the woods and around the bend. Time for lap two. As I approached the second lap, I could see Nikki!
Her and the Fam were hooting and hollering, and Nikki asks… “Need water?” Yes!! I grabbed some water from the table as I rode by. Drank some down and threw the cup. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid non litterer, but tossing the Dixie cup in a feat of determination made me feel like a champ. J
It was back up the hill that started the race and into the course again. As I gained speed, I began to pass the old men in the category that started before ours. They were wonderful. Everyone gave me the opportunity to pass and I felt very supported.
And then: The hill. This hill was very steep going up, and just as steep down. As I began to climb, a rider just in front of me went down. The trail was too narrow to go around him, so I was forced to dismount. I ran the bike to the top and took a deep breath. The downhill side had a root jutting across the entire trail. This root forced the bikes to be airborne, which was very scary concept.
This hill was the one I was nervous about. When I came to the course to pre-ride it, I had no idea how to ride down the hill over this root. Luckily, I had run into another racer that day named Angie. Angie was awesome! She saw the fear in my eyes, and taught me how to navigating my bike. As was talked about how to position my bike and body, my Pops just hopped on his bike and says “Like this”. And, without hesitation, rode over the root, went airborne, landed and sped down the hill.
‘Well then…haha… I guess that’s how I should do it!’ I thought and I rode the hill twice, very hesitantly, but successfully that day.
During the race however, I had no time to think, and no time to delay. So footloose and fancy free I went for it.
I wasn’t able to clip my shoes into my pedals in time! I kept my hands focused on keeping the bike up, but “Letting it Roll”. I flew down the hill, hitting the root, forcing my bike into a tiny bunny hop, (which felt like a 5 foot plummet at the time) and accelerated faster than I had gone the entire race.
IT. WAS. AWESOME!
“YEAHHH BUDDY!”I screamed. I clipped in and moved on.
As I turned the corner of the final stretch leading me out of the woods and under the finish line, I had no idea I was almost done! I passed the finish line I didn’t realize was finished until I was greeted by my family and a phone.
My friend Tom was on the phone.
“YO DAWWG, DID YOU RACE YET?!” - Tom
Still out of breath I answered:
“YEA DAWWWG! JUST FINISHED.”
(As I said this I looked around, and took in what had just happened)
“I think I WON.”
Turns out I did win!
I have never won first place in anything before, and it felt amazing. There were no podiums at this race but I will never forget the fulfillment of accomplishment. I had set out to do something 6 months ago, and now, tired, covered in blood and dirt and surrounded by my family, I had done it. That I will never forget.