Sunday, July 11, 2010

The bike race that wasn't

On Saturday, my roommate Jessica, our friend Paul and I headed up to north Georgia for the Georgia Games.

As you can see in the banner above, it's sort of Georgia's version of the Olympics. Jess, Paul and I were there for the Road Cycling Championships. Jess and I were riding in Women's Category 4, which was a 38-mile course, and Paul was in Men's Category 4, which was a 53-mile course.

Paul has a truck, so he picked up our bikes at 6:00 AM, and Jess and I rode up there separately in Jess's car so we wouldn't all have to squish into the cab.

We had NO IDEA what we were getting into! When we got there, we realized that we were all way out of our league--Jess and I moreso than Paul. We walked into a parking lot full of expensive bikes, pro racers, and frantic coaches.

We were tragically unmatched. Paul at least had appropriate apparel and shoes; Jess and I were wearing our running shoes and brought CamelBaks! We stuck out like sore thumbs as soon as we exited our vehicles. Even better yet, Jess doesn't have a road bike; she has a hybrid! We practically got laughed off the course before it even started.

Here we are getting ready to roll:

Most of the bikers competing were professionals. We were nearly the only bikers who weren't on teams, and we were probably the only bikers who hadn't been training constantly for months.

Result? Jess and I were dropped from the race in MILE 2. Yep, you read that right. Mile 2. Jess didn't clear the first hill with the main field, and when I told the support vehicles that I was going to slow down and wait for her to catch up, they went ahead and passed me.

Did we let it stop us? HELL NO. Jess and I finished the full 38 miles, not stopping once, and we finished strong. What do I mean when I say we "finished strong"? I mean that we finished the best that we could, and we were hella proud. We raced against ourselves, and, in the end, we still won that thing. 38 miles is a distance record for both Jess and I, and we ended up averaging a few miles-per-hour faster than we usually ride.

We showed up, and we did it. That's more than most people can say! (Thanks to Kristin for reminding us of that!)

Top-5 Lessons I Learned:
  • You cannot be daunted by people just because they have better equipment. Anyone with money can buy a fancy bike; it doesn't mean they can use it. Could I have kept up with the main field of pro racers, with their fancy bikes, wheelsets, and shoes? Certainly not for the whole 38 miles, but I could have given them a run, even in my running shoes and toe clips. I have strength, and I have heart. Take that, schmucks who made fun of me!

  • You absolutely cannot let people tell you what you can and cannot do. Only you know how much you're capable of, and you're probably capable of twice that much if you really want it. A friend of ours told Jess she wouldn't be able to do 38 miles at all on her hybrid bike. Not only did she do it, but she kicked ass, too.

  • You have to push yourself a little to know what you're made of. How will you know how far you can go if you don't try to find that limit? I knew it was probably silly to sign up for a cycling race for a distance I had never done in training. How did I know that I'd be able to race 38 miles? I totally didn't! But I really needed to know if I could, and I knew I'd never find out until I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

  • You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em... You've also got to know what legitimate reasons for folding are. When I didn't see Jess come over the top of the first climb right behind me, I had a choice. I could hold back and wait for her, or I could catch up with the main field and trust that she'd catch up soon. I knew where my priorities were, though. Jess and I hadn't shown up to race the main field and sprint for first at the end--we'd shown up to finish the race. Riding with Jess was much more important.

  • You have to own your victories. Yes, you may think that Jess's and my performance at the Georgia Games was embarrassing. Sure, we were dropped in mile 2. Sure, we were repeatedly made fun of by other racers and some of the volunteers and staff. But, Jess and I got up Saturday morning, drove to north Georgia, and finished a 38-mile cycling race. You can't take that away from us.

My unofficial 6th lesson is: Stick to running! Ha! At least for now.

Have you ever shown up to a race and found yourself tragically unmatched with the competition? What did you do?


  1. This is seriously amazing and put a huge smile on my face. I wouldn't even have the balls to show up to the start. Great race -- way to go! You should definitely be proud.


  2. At the second duathlon that I ever did, I showed up with my friend Fiona in her tiny little micra with our very basic bikes. The other girls were staring at hers, which was particularly antiquated (I'm talking shifters on the down tube!), and no one would talk to us. She managed to hang on to the front pack of girls until she threw the chain on the bike about 2k away from home, despite the differences in equipment. It was a great victory, followed by a slight defeat, for crappy bicycles everywhere!

    ...and don't get me started on all the fancy tri bikes that I passed on the climb at the IM 70.3 in Austria!

    Well done for sticking with it! :)

  3. There's a lot of arrogance among cyclists... about 6 years ago I was really into biking and I joined a cycling club, paying dues and everything up front. Then I showed up at a training ride and was basically laughed out of the parking lot for my old bike. After trying a few other group rides I realized that I'd need about $1200 to be even close to getting accepted into their little group, so I quit going. (Thankfully running is a cheaper hobby, and most runners seem to be a lot nicer!) That whole bad experience made me really shy about joining a running club, too.

    Great job for finishing!