Last night I entered my first cyclocross race, The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross. With roughly 8 hours of any type of off-road experience, this may have been crazy. But it was dark and I was on a start line, so when they said “go,” I did.
I was the slowest woman there. Even crossing terrain that real CX racers consider ideal for opening up and sprinting, I was frightened. Ugh, what was I doing…? (the best I could with what I had)
I was alone on the dark fields pretty quickly. I just kept pedaling and doing the best I could.
In my 2nd lap, I regained company as the leaders joined me and passed by in a beautiful combination of power and finesse. Wow.
My confidence improved a tiny bit with each lap. I’m sure this wasn’t visible to anyone else, but I even started shifting. Every word of encouragement from spectators was genuinely supportive and incredibly appreciated. I was last, slow, and ok. Somewhere in the 2nd lap, I started to enjoy the experience and started smiling. I felt like a little kid just having learned to ride a bike. I was wobbly, but doing it.
As I was finishing just my 3rd lap, Helen Wyman came up behind me to finish. This was fine. I’d hoped to be able to finish 4 laps, but I was cool with being done at 3, too. I heard Helen Wyman tell me to sprint. This made no sense- I can’t sprint.
So, I sprinted across some grass and some non-asphalt, gravely surface, for the first time ever – with Helen Wyman.
She let me cross first so I could get another lap. When the blood returned to my brain, I had mixed feelings about this.
“Stay with me and I’ll show you some lines.” Helen, in her 6th/cool-down lap and I, in my 4th lap, had a private ride of the course. What I lack in cyclocross skills, I make up for in my ability to recognize a rare opportunity and just how incredibly lucky I am. I rode behind her the entire lap thinking, “Are you kidding me?! I’m riding with Helen Wyman. I am SO freakin’ lucky!”
In that one lap, she encouraged me and she pushed me. What was impossible and terrifying for me during the 3 previous laps somehow became possible. When I finished my race, I was overwhelmed by my appreciation for everyone who had cheered for me, my family, my friends, new friends, racers, and strangers – each word had mattered, immensely. I was in awe of Helen’s generosity. I loved that I had the privilege of racing on the same course with amazingly talented women including the current 2X European CX Champion. It wasn’t until I got home that I read how she signed my 9 year old son’s postcard.
I was DFL last night. And I may have fallen in love with cyclocross.