I'm a little over half way through my first full season of racing, and it's been almost exactly a year since my first race ever (Wente Road Race). I have the first little pause in my schedule and time to evaluate how I feel about the whole thing. This season is really about learning to race for me and trying different things. I've decided at this point I have a love-hate relationship with the racing. Of course, I'm a woman, so I reserve the right to change my opinions at any time.
1. Racing is a huge time commitment - unless you're genetically gifted with lots of fast-twitch muscle (I'm not), becoming competitive requires that you make cycling a second full time job.
The love: I love spending lots of hours on my bike.
The hate: I miss hiking with my non-cycling friends and riding with my non-racing friends.
2. Gaining fitness requires a much stricter attention to diet and rest.
The love: I love that I am gradually weeding out vices from my life and becoming more disciplined.
The hate: I miss the occasional weekend night staying up late watching movies with my honey or with girlfriends and binging on good wine and candy and sleeping in late the next morning.
3. Racing brings you into a whole new community of racers.
The love: It's a great community. There are lots of cool people that I see myself becoming better friends with. It is encouraging and supportive.
The hate: I've semi-abandoned some of my other communities (see observation #1)
4. Being on a team, you get to share success with your teammates
The love: I love it when our team is successful - when a teammate wins. I love it when I'm able to contribute to the success.
The hate: I'm jealous of those who are successful and disappointed when I'm not fit enough to contribute. I hate being jealous and disappointed in myself.
5. Racing is a thrill. Being in the pack or off the front when things are going well and you are in control is like no other feeling in the world.
The love: I love the adrenaline rush, the thrill, the challenge and the competition.
The hate: I hate the nerves and the fear - the fear that I may end up permanently injured or dead for a silly thrill. And, being off the back can be the loneliest feeling in the world.
6. Racing requires a whole new level of fitness - beyond anything I've ever tried to attain. I've been successful in several sports over the years and none of them has required the fitness level of bicycle racing (track and field, basketball, triathlon, distance running).
The love: I love that I am fitter than I've ever been. I love that I can push my body to the limits and it comes back each time a little stronger and with a little less pain.
The hate: I hate that despite how far I've come, my fitness level isn't even up to where I need to be to be competitive in Cat 4. I fear that with my strong, amazonian body, I will never be the kind of cyclist I want to be - maybe a crit monster, but I'm not even sure I like crits yet.
I'm looking forward to the next part of the season - to trying more road races - to learning new things and discovering new strengths and minimizing my weaknesses. I look forward to working together with my teammates and watching them struggle and grow as racers, too.
On to the next adventures in racing! See you all at Mt. Hamilton!