Monday, July 6, 2009

I may not have won the race, but...

I bet i enjoyed it the most! My last road race was almost one full year ago so naturally I entered this one with much trepidation. After taking many months off of racing and hard riding for therapy and rehabilitation, I had no idea what to expect.

Sure, I'd done the work leading up to this race to be theoretically fit. They say that if you put in the work, results will follow. But does that always pertain to bike racing? Or is bike racing a whole different level of reality... What if you put in the work but you're building on a shoddy "base" or pedaling many hours while seated in a poor bike position? I'd expect in those cases what you'd get is a whole lot of wasted time with no results.

I wish fitness buildup for bike racing was as clean and neat as a mathematical equation. Maybe that is why i've always been into science - did you know i was pre-med at Columbia University? I espoused the career path of becoming a doctor so fully that even my own father couldn't accept that I'd give it all up to be a bike racer.

He finally let go after watching me in a cyclo-cross race in Southampton, NY. I sometimes wonder that if i didn't win the event, if he would have written the bike racing off as a tiny hobby and continued pestering me about my former career path in medicine. I surely dont miss the family reunions where all the little kids - and even the parents - would line up to ask me about their aches, pains and strange symptoms.

But back to the road race, within a few minutes I realized that my months of hard work were thankfully not wasted. I rode easily with the peloton with fingers up my nose - as they say in Belgium - at average speeds of over 40kph and even as high as 57kph. The only time i was at my limit was when i tried to chase down my former Lotto-Belisol teammates Liesbet de Vocht and Kim Schoonbaert. I suffered and failed. But i still enjoyed the moment so much that i started to laugh at myself to think i could bridge to some of the strongest racers in the world - and in my first bike race nonetheless.

When the peloton finally whipped by, it took a little fighting to get my body to lift and match the pace of the peloton. I would like to think nobody could physically see i was struggling since that look would not have gone well with my fancy white SCOTT Addict bike with pink and blue trim and my matching SCOTT Contessa Line outfit - white with silver trim (thanks to Eddie and Dries).

With about four laps to go, fellow cross racer Helen Wyman jumped with one other gal. They stayed away until the end with Helen lifting her arms in glory!

I may have only placed 40th of 78 finishers (I've never been much of a sprinter), but i am truly satisfied - and of course immensely thankful - that it felt easier than i ever imagined it to feel based on previous experiences. For the last two years, it took many races before i could stay with the peloton until the end. And even then i suffered so badly the whole race!

I expect that some of the upcoming races will feel a lot worse than my first one, but i welcome the pain if that is what it takes to be the best cyclocross racer i can be this season!

On a side note, I'd like to thank some my fellow racers for their kindness and support. I even got a few "you're doing great" comments during the race! It was also special to see some friendly faces in the crowd like Ronny, Pannekoek, Jonas - of course, his mom, and the guys from the Zaventem group ride and Old Mans Ride who help me train and came out to specifically cheer for me.

One of the guys from the Old Mans Ride even kept me company - or rather heckled me - at the start line. Since i too am a jokester, i joked back. After two minutes of our playtime, i looked up only to see a few of the racers staring at me. At that moment i realized it was because our conversation was in Flemish and they'd never heard me speak it. I still have a long way to go to semi-master the language but it felt good to be able to understand good heckling when it is aimed at me!

My next race is scheduled for 15 July. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading AND thanks to all of you for your support over the years!

photo credit: Ria van Looveren


Amy said...

Good for you - I am so glad to hear your first race back went so well - and I love the white outfit and the new white bike, looks great! Great job!

Anonymous said...

You look pretty cool on your white bike in the white kit! talk about stand out from the crowd!

I would say great result too!!! First race back on the road after 'rehab' and 1 year since your last race. And it seems you finished in the bunch after a valiant attempt and chasing down a break!

It's nice to see that even as a pro you enjoy seeing freindly faces in the crowd...

Nice race. Keep having fun and putting your fingers up your nose!


Anonymous said...

Headline news:

This Girl made some awesome off season efforts. It pays off at the Worlds CX championship.

PEANUT said...

Thanks all! i especially loved the Headline News! That's surely the plan!

Rickie Rainwater said...

Christine, another great read. I will be trying racing early next year and possibly earlier on the Fayetteville Wheelmen/Tyson Racing Team. Fitting in riding on my days off is always a stressor getting back on the bike after 3.5 days off. I am also now on BP meds. I started heartrate training and find my body definitely has its good and bad days. Tomorrow should prove interesting at the TDF regarding our Lance Armstrong conversation. I will be thinking about you as I watch the results of the first mountain days. Thanks for the inspiration.

Rickie Rainwater said...

Oh yeah, your new bike and outfit looks super fast. I have quiet a collection of peanut photos!