It was 2011 and I was standing at the top of Meeting House Road, a camera in one hand, my stomach giddy with anticipation as the racers screamed down the dirt descent and hammered over the stiff climb.
“Are you racing, too?” A woman about my age asked, turning toward me. “You look like someone who races.” I wasn’t sure how to answer this. No, I wasn’t racing. Yes, I regularly rode with racers, but I wasn’t one…yet. I was a pro at bottle hand-ups, but that’s as close as I’d come to participating in a road race. But after watching my husband compete in Battenkill in 2011 and riding the route the following fall, I made a promise to myself that I’d be back and not as the water girl.
When I first started riding, I never expected to race. But as we evolve as cyclists, something begins to shift. Whether it comes from accumulating QOMs or hanging with a pack of tough guys, there’s a little voice that yearns to put it all on the line. This little voice gets louder and I’m convinced that others can hear it, too. “You have excellent form. How long have you been racing?” asked an editor from Bicycling Magazine as we chatted in the pack during their gran fondo. During another group ride, a local pro asked what races were on my calendar. All these questions made me feel flattered, but sheepish. Were they seeing something I wasn’t? What does a racer look like?
As this winter approached, I knew I couldn’t handle another boring three months of base building. This was the first winter that I would be training with power and I wanted to do it right, to make the most of it. Boring videos wouldn’t push me to ride outside or improve in any measurable way. I didn’t need to lose weight. I needed a bigger goal: a lofty, leg-busting, ass-kicking, ambition-driven one.
There are times in life when you just need a good shove out of your comfort zone. For me, completely switching careers last year had already pushed me far into the realm of discomfort. But instead of panicking, I was growing in ways I never imagined were possible. I knew that if I just summoned the courage to register for Battenkill, that this feeling would extend to the bike. And it has. I spent the winter training outside and I watched my power numbers soar as I pushed harder than ever before. With the race less than a week away, I’ve laid out my team kit and enlisted a friend to hand me water bottles. My stomach is giddy, nervous, excited.
I’ll see you on Meeting House Road.