CRUSH your comfort zone!

22 Aug

Last night I stepped out of my comfort zone, like way out.  During my bike fit last week, Derek (owner of Out-Spoke-n) and I started talking about racing.  We discussed that in our area, most bike races are crits or criterium races.

“A criterium, or crit, is a bike race held on a short course (usually less than 1 mile), often run on closed-off city center streets.

Race length can be determined by a number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event’s duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race — which can last many hours, sometimes over the course of several days or even weeks, as in a Grand Tour. However, the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been “lapped.”

Events often have prizes (called primes, pronounced “preems”, and are usually cash) for winning specific intermediate laps (for instance, every 10th lap). A bell is usually rung to announce to the riders that whoever wins the next lap, wins the prime.

Success in road criteriums requires a mix of good technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while “holding your line” on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — and riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional “sprint” ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate hard from corners.” (thank you Wikipedia)

If you aren’t use to riding in a tight pack, crits can be very intimidating and down right scary.  Which is why I do not race crits.  Derek informed me that his shop ride on Wednesday nights is on a crit track and sort of a beginner practice ride.  I have been on my fair share of group rides, but this was different.  Out-Spoke-n is not close, but Marc was out of town and I figured I could either sit on the couch and watch SOA on Netflix or get my bike on the car and try something new.

It took me almost an hour to get to the shop, it was rush hour but I was going the opposite direction of traffic from most of the way.  Pulling up to a new shop ride can be like the first day of school in Jr. High.  My biggest fear was that I wasn’t going to be able to hang, like at all, and embarrass myself.  I was so worried about this, that I didn’t wear any TC gear (yes, I do have 1 non-TC kit – it was a sample LOL) because I didn’t want to disgrace my brand or my team.  I know, terrible but that is the truth.  Plus there is nothing more frustrating when you are giving everything you got and some jack ass yells out, “Come on Tough Chik!”  or “Not looking so tough now…”  yes…it has happened and then I get all pissy and f-bomb-y.

As I drove into the parking lot, I started sizing up the group.  They all looked fast.  You know what a roadie looks like, strong and thin.  I admit, I was a little intimidated.  At least I have a bad ass bike.  So I unloaded Gordy and went into the shop.  Derek was there, kitted out in the Out-Spoke-n kit and I also saw a familiar face, Patrick.  Patrick and I met through the shop and I have ridden with him once before and was dropped.  Not confidence boosting.  I said Hi and made a little small talk, but stuck to myself.  There was one other girl in this group of about 20 and she looked like she was in college.  Actually she is in college because she and her buds were wearing Cal Long Beach kits.  Great collegiate racers…awesome.

Patrick, who was leading the ride, explained that we would ride from the shop to the park and there would be more folks meeting us there.  After we were all at the entrance of the park, we would ride the first 6 laps at a appx 20mph pace and then the last 2 laps were a free for all and you could attack.  And with that we were off.  The ride to the park was a brisk but comfortable pace from the most part.  I was able to talk to 2 other guys and one was a first timer too and the other assured me that it wasn’t too different from the way we were riding now.  2 pace lines.

My confidence grew a smidgen on the 10 or so miles to the park.  I was hanging with the front of the pack on the way over and able to slow down and accelerate with the pack.  When we entered the park, there were about 10 or 15 riders waiting, making the pack to start at about 30-35 riders.  There were about a dozen riders in front of me including a kid who was about 12.  If a 12 year old can do this, so can I…right?

The first lap was an average pace of about 23 mph, I had no problem keeping the speed, but the corners were tough.  I couldn’t keep the speed up during the corners, so I would have to work twice as hard after each corner to re-gain my spot.  In a race situation, I would have lost my spot, but here they gave me the space to speed up and work to make up the distance.  Or at least that is what I did, hopefully it wasn’t a party foul.  With each lap I was able to take the corners faster.  With each lap, the first 2 riders peel off and the next 2 led out the pack.  I started to do the math and figured out that I was going to end up a the front sooner or later.  At this point I was wishing that I had started the ride towards the back of the pack, less chance to lead.  I wasn’t keeping track of the laps, so I had no idea where we were, but from what I can figure, half way trough lap 5 I was a the front.  Holy shit I am leading the pack, pulling these 30 riders.  It lasted for all of a quarter-mile and then was one of the sharp turns, which I intentionally took wide and descended to the back of the pack.  Over the next half mile I gave all I had to catch up with the pack.

I held on for another lap and then I was wasted.  The last lap and a half I rode solo.  I used so much energy trying to stay with the pack after I took the lead that I couldn’t keep up. When I rolled up to the entrance of the park, where we were meeting to leave, I noticed that half the pack was gone.  I don’t think that most of the riders rode for the whole 8 laps, which made me feel a little better about myself.

Once we were all gathered to head back to the shop, Derrik had us get together for a photo.

Can you find me?  Yep I am like the black sheep at the far right.  Honestly, I didn't think I was in the photo.

Can you find me? Yep I am like the black sheep at the far right. Honestly, I didn’t think I was in the photo.

Overall, I am very proud of myself.  I am proud that I got off my butt and went.  That is pretty huge for me these days.  I am proud that I led a huge pack, even if it was very briefly.  I am proud that I didn’t completely embarrass myself, I hung with the boys and I loved every minute.  I am bummed that I found this ride at the end of the summer, as next week is the last week for the ride.  But I am so happy I went!


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