Monday, April 20, 2009

My first race, first crit, first DNF...

I remember earlier this season telling people that I would like to race “at some point”….perhaps much later in the season. This past Thursday, I threw all caution to the wind and on a whim decided to sling myself into a race without much fitness, without many base miles, without many skills and with a healthy dose of, “I don’t give a shit”. To further my agony, it was not just my first race – ever – but my first criterium. I’ve seen quite a few first hand, I’ve read a good bit about them, etc…. but never actually experienced one on MY bike. Crazier yet, I grabbed another girl, Danielle, a runner/triathlete/beginner road cyclist and took her along for the ride. She, too, had never raced a Crit, she hadn’t even seen one, but she was all in.

Friday we loaded up after work with my duly betrothed, the only one actually capable of racing and headed for Mount Pleasant for the Pivotal Fitness VW racing weekend. My excellent research skills snagged us the last cabin at a KOA camp ground and we were off. We got there in time Friday night for Rob to remove Danielle’s aero bars and attach my new cleats to my shoes and that’s literally all the prep we got!

Saturday morning we raced in the I’on Village Smackdown. The race went about like I expected. Cat 4 women’s fields usually have a vastly varying degree of skill/talent. This weekend was no exception. There were quite a few very strong women from Greenville, Sam from POA fairly new to road racing, definitely not new to the bike, speed, or strength, Angela from Hincapie (racing on the bike she bought from my duly betrothed – good seeing it recycled!), quite a few Greenville Women’s Cycling girls (Caroline, Catherine, Jen, etc.) Rip from Mock Orange (recognized her from Cross races) and on and on it went….. we were screwed.

I expected to get dropped from the start line, I was pleasantly surprised as I was sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack through turn 1, turn 2 and into turn 3… I remember thinking, I’m actually going to make it around at least one lap, NOT DROPPED….hooray!.... alas, no such luck. After the third turn there was a bit of a mishap, I’m not really sure how, or who…I just remember clanging, hard braking, a few girls right in front of me bouncing off each other….long enough for me and a few others, Danielle included to be gapped out. I’m not savvy enough mentally or physically at this point to recover and close a gap that large. After riding most of the race alone, I quit, which made me not just a loser, but also a quitter…puh thet ick. I assumed it was best to get off the course, clearly I was wrong and I’m stuck with my DNF in black and white *sigh*.

After a stern scolding from Sam, I now know differently. She vehemently told me to NEVER EVER quit that I need the experience and that if nothing else, the women’s races need the participation. Rob reiterated as he shook his head, since he had told me this before and I didn’t obey so well. Obstinacy is my strong suit after all.

Laura Bowles from Vanderkitten was there “mentoring” if you will. I was very appreciative to be approached by her afterwards for “tips”. She was very encouraging, thought I did well, but maybe needed some help with “gearing”, thought maybe I didn’t understand that I needed to be in a much larger gear and she didn’t realize that it was my first race. I explained that no, I just started really riding in November…that I fully understand gears, that I’m relatively good with them (so he says) and that in theory, I “get” shifting very well…. knew my gear choice wasn’t the best, but my quads were shot from boot camp that week (dumb move on my part) and I just couldn’t push a bigger gear. We also had a short discussion on my 650c wheels vs. 700’s (she is small like me) and she even offered to bring back a bike of hers before her race for me to try out the 700’s…. I never found her, we didn’t hang around…but it was a nice gesture just the same.

What I took away from this weekend…

The “Cons”:

No matter how strong I may think I am (muscularly that is) I cannot pound my legs to muscle failure on Monday and Tuesday and expect for them to race well on Saturday. I’m too “new” to cycling and just aint got it yet. One cannot pause or sit up when mishaps occur… that split second of reaction causes too much damage, from which I, at this point, cannot recover.

The “Pros” --- I felt confident, very solid in my handling, I had a good start and I know “he” has taught me well. My bike looked pretty and as we all know, good looks matter! I had great conversations with some great women racers and I had fun… can’t ask for much more than that.

Many race pics to follow.


  1. Well done, great going, you will soon be pecking them off and moving up the pack

  2. Every race is a learning experience (take it from me!) and the only way to fail is to not seek to improve. Your first success was just getting out there. So, at this point the only way to fail is to not get back out there. Choose a couple of things to improve and nibble away at it. Before you know it you'll be up front!

  3. Thanks Philip and Jonathan... every little bit of encouragement definitely helps. At this point, I know that I just need many, many more miles on the bike. I'm up against many years of experience, that really only time can help. I do plan to get back out there, for better or worse!

  4. You killed me with that comment about your bike looking pretty...ha ha. I'm proud of you for jumping in head first. That's the only way to do this. I want to encourage you to keep trying. I got blown out of my first 5-6 crits and I kept coming back for more. Keep listening and watching the others and you'll learn as you go. Also practice your bike handling and cornering skills when you can. Improvements in those areas will pay huge dividends in your racing. By entering and racing the event, you are a competitive bike racer. Great job!

  5. Thanks Steve.... all I've ever really known (much to my parent's dismay) is jumping in head first! Rob has been a great motivator every step of the way and I'm having a blast...truly. I do very much feel like I've finally found my niche. It only took years of soccer, running, rock climbing, weight lifting, etc. to discover it and settle in! Rob was the first to finally tell me since I liked to injure myself so much that I would make a great cyclist LOL Let Angela and Sam know I have a good picture of the two of them, but haven't posted it yet. I'll try to get it up soon. Thanks again for the great encouragement!