Dead fucking last never felt so nice.
I can feel bad that I was so far behind. I can feel bad that each time I went up the hill, I slowed to 10 mph. I can feel embarrassed. I can feel self-pity. I can feel like I’m not actually cut out for this. I’m not actually a bike racer, not an elite or endurance or super competitive athlete. I’m not an extreme cyclist. I’m not this. Not them. Not me. I can feel all those things, but I choose not to.
I choose something different.
I choose the perfume of the budding trees coming up the hill. I choose the little boy who yelled, “Hi” to me. I choose the man who came up to me after the race, a smile as wide as a four-lane highway and said, “You did it!” I choose those guys from The Bike Shop who let me hang on their wheel for a bit. I choose the smile I felt from biking in the Niagara wine trail. I choose sunlight. Freedom. Good, strong breath. Joy. This is what I choose.
Today I raced 30.75 miles at Freedom Run Winery. I pulled my car up to a bunch of men and a few women and the guys from The Buffalo Bicycle Club waved at me in some sort of gentle welcoming—a slight movement that said, “Yes. Come. You are welcome here.”
I got on my bike and it was so loud. It clicked and clicked and I took a lot of grief from my fellow cyclists, and the clicking kind of drove me insane, but in another way, it was kind of okay because it was sort of funny.
I went for a short warm up ride with my teammate. Two women. Two bikes. Nickel City Cycles kits. I said, “My goal is to stay on the pack as long as I can, and then once I’m dropped, just ride it out and keep up my cadence.” My teammate said her goal was to work on her mental game. Then we talked about our lives and whispered secrets that only women know and we laughed and we turned around and stood in the line of category five racers.
“Alright. You do one lap together and then you get to that cone and then you launch.”
I looked over at my other teammate, “Launch!”
“Launch!” She said back to me through a laugh and a friendly smile and a great attitude and I didn’t know it then and neither did she (except in some hidden room of her self perhaps), but she would actually win the race.
Then, we were off and I fell back and the practice lap was hard and I took a Campus guy’s wheel because Campus men are nice and cool and are pretty much always going to help you. He got us back to the pack and I was fine after that.
When we got to the cone, everyone did “launch” but I just kind of “kept going the same.” I got dropped at the hill and I was a bit disappointed I didn’t stay on longer, but I didn’t and then it was about finishing the race.
And, I did. I bloody well did. And now I choose to be quite proud of that fact.