Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Introducing the accidental athlete ...

When I was in ninth grade, I walked out of pre-season conditioning for basketball and quit the team because the coach told us we had to run a mile. I joined the team again in tenth grade, but the coach told me before the season started that although she wasn't going to cut anyone, I shouldn't expect to get much playing time. I went home and cried for a while and then I sat the bench. And that was the end of my basketball playing days.

Fastforward about 15 years and I'm on a beach at Lake Michigan, being told by my boyfriend that he can't relate to me because I never do anything that's challenging just for the sense of accomplishment. A few days later I got dumped.

Having set up my story that way, how is it that I find myself two months away from 35 and contemplating the 2008 mountain bike racing season? Why is it suddenly not enough to be the person who always knows the right way to say something or the one who knows how to spell everything? Why am I not satisfied with just planning my wedding, working at my communications job, watching hockey and playing with my puppies? I don't have the answers to any of these questions—I just know that I did have something competitive in me. It was dormant for my entire childhood and so far in my adult life. The only thing that's different was that I started riding a bike.

Let me clarify something here. I've had a bike for several years. In fact, I've had multiple bikes for several years. I rode them occasionally and sometimes even broke a sweat. Eventually, I started hanging out with "bike people," riding a little more, and making a lot of grand-sounding pronouncements. These pronouncements mainly consisted of the following:

"I'm going to ride a century this year!"

"I'm going to do a mountain bike race this year!"

Of course, each year went by and I didn't do either one.

This year was a little different. I still didn't race in any mountain bike races. But I rode. And I rode. I rode at least three times as many miles as I have any other year. I was suddenly the person who said "let's go ride," and I rode whether or not other people wanted to go with me.

And low and behold, in August I rode a century, which actually turned out to be closer to 110 miles due to my exceptionally poor navigational skills.

Then in the fall, when I usually don't even look at my bike, I went to a
Kisscross race.

And I rode it.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Kisscross is a series of very low-key cyclocross-type races. Races consist of a course set up in a city park and participants have to ride around doing laps and at certain points, get off their bikes, pick them up and run over barriers. The number of laps you do depends on the course and the class you're racing.

Let me tell you about my racing experience.

It hurts. I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack the entire time. I love it. It's twisted and masochistic, but it's fun. In fact, I can think of very few things that are as much fun.

I'm racing in the beginner class and I consistently come in last. I mean, people's kids routinely beat me. I'm not kidding. My bike-handling skills need a ton of work, I don't have a super expensive bike and I'm godawful slow.

But I discovered something about myself. I love to push myself and I love to race. So next year I'm going to race my mountain bike. I'll probably suck, and I'll probably come in last, but I'm going to finish.

The first race I'm planning to do is on April 20. In the meantime, I'm going to condition myself and I'm going to train. Then I'm going to write about it.

That's what this blog is all about.


atsheridan said...

What an inspiration you are to me! I admire your spirit and applaud your accomplishments. You challenge me to get out of my rut and make things happen. I look forward to following you on your personal journey. Way to go!

Chris said...

I'm just leaving a comment, OK>

Anne said...

Excellent! Great post.
Here's to 2008 and continued pushing.

Spin Street said...

You are one of my favorite types of riders. I love your blog, your attitude and your style. Enjoy cycling for everything it can be.