Maria P. joined Naked mid-season as an ultra endurance runner, and whatduyaknow? That fitness transfers over quite well to the bike, despite the glaring differences Maria points out between distance running and road racing. Here’s her account of Steamboat Stage Race.
Steamboat started with a hectic drive. I had jokingly posted on my team mate Katie Harrer’s FB page that the technical race manual told us to be at the TT start at least 5 min prior. We had almost missed it in Salida….
This time, I almost missed it, and knowingly so. I dropped my beloved one off at the airport where he left to accompany his parents onto their last big trip to Europe.
So, I was sad about his leaving, and rushed to Steamboat, to let it all out in a race that wouldn’t matter, in some mountains that had no face, in a state that wasn’t mine, in a country that had welcomed me out of nowhere, just like the team that I accidentally got in – the Naked Women Racing team, best in all women’s road racing disciplines.
I rushed to this new opportunity.
I did the TT with not much energy or focus, having run and ridden all week, with 2 workouts a day because life is too precious to not do it. Then, there was coffee, ice-cream, wine, cheese, and bread. And some more coffee, because soy cappucinos are great. Right?
That day, I fell asleep on the floor of the condo where my other team mate, Lanier, stayed, and 9 more people, lots of guys mostly – Primal folks. They were all blue. It is all a bit weird, but who cared… We had lots of bikes in that garage, and that looked great.
I thought that my life was good, after nerding out a bit and working until 10-ish or so, along with having some red wine, to optimally prepare for the next stage – the 62 mile long road race which looked promising, since long enough to be a workout that would justify some more ice cream.
Coming from ultra running, riding bikes is a bit strange. First off, none of us mountain runners likes to be on the road. There’s traffic, technical gear, and people, and guess what: There are rules. Lots of them. We on the other hand like to be dirty, run with holes in our shoes, eat very little, drink some water sometimes, and throw up from hard efforts whenever needed. Oh, and going to the restroom in the wilderness feels real good, too. We like to run in extreme heat, through thunderstorms, or ascent 14ers, and then another one, and another one, all in the same day, before noon, so we can get home, have lots of ice-cream, and go get some work done, or maybe go have a margarita, to take the word “work” very lightly. We like to be out there, against nature, and possibly die, because we will have lived, and we have known serenity, as well as the deepest dark spots in our souls, as well as we have made plans for a great future. Kind of like New Year’s resolutions, only over and over again, and not necessarily pursued. Riding bikes on the road is not that. It is not solitary. It is not random. It is thought out. It is analytic. It is mathematical. It is logical. It is not complete deprivation, and it does not offer the deep reward in most cases – unless one knows how to sprint and give it one’s all – which I can only see as a light at the end of a long learning tunnel.
Riding bikes is a chess game. It’s playing with your team mates, as well as with your competition. It’s about knowing the fine line of “with” and “against” and “in between”, and about riding that line most graciously, without falling off of that horse (or the bike). It is indeed about the gear, and only the wealthy can kinda do it. I grew up very poor, so I feel that this is a world of wonders, aka Eternal Christmas, where people take out their fancy toys on a Sunday afternoon playground to show off. Kind of like a Sports car show (I love sports cars…). And now I have one of those, also, and am playing with the better kids, but I’m not really one of them quite yet, and I don’t know how my toy works – but they sure do.
The road race started extremely slowly. I was so cold that my teeth shivered and I could not keep them from clapping against each other. This continued for a while – and I got so impatient because of not being able to put in a hard effort that would finally warm me up that I took off after only 15 miles into the race. I ended up riding in lonesome solitude, just like I run my ultras, without any team mates, or competition, until almost the end of the race. I started missing the 2 girls I had traded a short switch for the lead with earlier. I missed them badly. I missed hearing their voices, jokes, and the nice sound of their wheels. At the turnaround I felt really lonely and spied out for them. There they were – so close behind. I knew I had screwed up by taking off, and that my non-existing fuel would punish me further. So now I was just in there to finish the thing (which is funny to say when leading for 40+ miles, but very very true. This was hard). The views did not disappoint, and the men’s 55+ race didn’t either – allowing us to catch up to one of them after another after another. I knew I only had another 1.5 hours to go.
And so it happened. A few miles to the finish, Kristen sneaked up to me. She looked strong. As a pro triathlete, she *is* strong. She’s this tall blond girl who looks like she can knock you over in an instance – and she did, throughout the entire weekend. We traded, her working the downs, me the ups. Until I had to let go because my muscles started to consume themselves, in lack of some fuel. So she won, and I saw her zooming away, like an arrow unleashed by a bow into a storming wind cloud. She deserved it, but I was still angry at myself for not being able to stay with others 40 miles prior and to be smart about racing.
But I finished, too, without dropping out, which was good.
Then, I had 2 gelatos, some more wine, and got to go to the hot springs with Lanier, who had to be talked into it. That was truly awesome. We could see the stars – lots of them – in absence of much city light. Maybe we were a a bit delirious – it was dark, so who knows.
The next day, Lanier did the CRIT, and because of her enthusiasm for it, I finally did it, too.
I managed to not crash even, but observed a crash happening right in front of me. That was mind settling, and I had to remember how fragile humans actually are. Racing is dangerous. Driving a car is dangerous. Flying around the country is, too. Life is relative, and things happen – in the grand scheme, we only have the day at hand to live, and to go out and give our best shot at whatever it is that we are doing, and hopefully, we can do it with grace, and with some love for the ones that are with us – because their smiles are more than a reward back.
And that’s why I finished Steamboat, doing a CRIT that I had not wanted to do, and seeing Lanier smile in the end.
I am proud to be Naked.