Perfect title for Katie Whidden one of our road teammates as she competed in her first cyclocross this past weekend.
This weekend I competed in my first cross race and felt a certain level of vulnerability that I have not felt in a while. One of my blessings is that I am typically confident enough to try different sports or athletic activities because I have always been able to pick up on them quickly. For some reason though I was more nervous about this race than I usually am. I started out in endurance sports as a triathlete and have only been mountain biking for 8 months so I am still learning how a bike responds on dirt. I have fallen a few times and while I now understand I won’t die if I fall, I do know that it can really hurt and take a few days or weeks to heal. After some nudging from teammate Brittany Jones I finally decided this was a perfect fall day to try cyclocross.
Before the race I was feeling pre-race nerves that I hadn’t had in a while. I had signed up for the unknown. Would I embarrass myself and eat it into a barrier on a dismount, would I slide out in a corner or worse yet hold up an entire line of girls trying to race? These were all thoughts that passed through my mind before the race. Having Naked teammates to warm up with and talk with before the race really helped. Katie Harrer, Helen Prieto, and Cathy Goodheart were racing in category 4 with me. Emily Zinn and Brittany Jones were our seasoned mentors in category 3. All of them have raced cross at least once and provided advice that was able to calm some of the nerves.
One thing I was never warned about was call ups. I know positioning is important before you hit the dirt so I was planning on having a good starting spot but the USAC official came by to call us up into specific rows. This surprised me and I was unfortunately called in the 2nd to last line out of the 50 girls that were racing in my category. The start played out exactly opposite as I was hoping. I got stuck behind a pile up the moment we hit dirt. I managed to stay on my bike but continued to have a messy first lap. I was braking in every corner, nervous of all the girls behind me hating me for my bad handling skills and slightly nervous that I would blow up because I wasn’t sure if my fitness was ready for cross. However, something happened on the 2nd lap. I played to my strengths and powered up every asphalt section to pass as many racers as possible. I knew my cornering and lack of dismounting skills would slow me down so I needed to be smart and suffer when I could and stay upright through everything else. I ended up feeling much more confident and flowing through the corners with more ease. This race alone has forced me to sharpen up my skills in a way that I wasn’t doing during training rides with friends. My competitive drive took over and I knew I had to put my big girl pants on and start racing like I know how to ride bikes. By the last lap of the race I knew I would be back for more. This was way too fun and I could tell there was tons of improvement that I could do to help me go faster.
For those of you who are struggling to convince yourself to make the leap to actually race cyclocross I suggest you step out of your comfort zone and experience another fun way to ride bikes. It is important for us to put ourselves in situations in our life where we know we aren’t going to see immediate success and where we will potentially embarrass ourselves. This is how we grow and add excitement to our life. Being what I consider a “freshman” at something doesn’t end in college. We should put ourselves into these types of situations as much as possible. This will keep us mentally and physically fresh because learning something new should never end. I challenge you to embrace the feeling of vulnerability and try something new whether that be cross or any other activity that puts you in an uncomfortable place.