This year I decided to challenge myself by entering a couple of bike races. Initially I was going to wait until next year as I feel I am still very much building up my cycling fitness and experience. Entering a bike race is daunting, the woman’s field is usually small, it’s very male dominated and the people racing are usually good, there aren’t really many people just having a go, they are serious racers. I know I am still building up both fitness and skills at a steep rate. I decided to challenge myself to get a feel for what it was like, that way I would know what I was aiming for next year.
I love riding long distance and exploring new places by bike and over the last year, I have developed a real love for riding up hills. Truth be told I don’t just like riding up them I like to ride up them as fast as I can. I love that I have to always listen to the hill as well as my own exertion rate in order to not overdo it or underdo it. I love the challenge of it, the finding where my boundaries really are. I love being in a body that can push myself to the limit, it makes me feel very fortunate and alive in a body that can move and see things, transcend boundaries. As far as cycling goes going riding uphill is my strength, I am not saying I am great at it but I am small and strong for my size which is an advantage when the road points up. I am not very good at descending but that’s another topic! So when I discovered that there were time trials up hills, I knew that was the race for me. It was actually nice to know that there were other people like me out there pitting themselves against the hills.
I choose two hills to race up. The criteria was to choose hills that were local enough for me to practice on and that had a reasonably womens field in last years race in terms of how many. The women’s field is always substantially smaller but I didn’t want to enter a race with only one or two women. I chose the Horseshoe Pass and Mow Cop. When I looked at how fast other women were going up these hills from starva and other results I found online, I was scared that I was going to be last. At first that fear of coming last of not making a fool of myself motivated me. My ever wise fiancé pointed out this negative fear motivation wasn’t the best way to motivate myself. He also pointed out that someone had to come last and that it really was unlikely that everyone would stand there laughing at me. Instead the goal became to beat myself to see if I could go faster than I had last time.
Over the last few months I have have visited these two hills whenever I can. As I was also training for a sportive with a friend, I rode a them within my long rides at the weekend. So I rode to the hill, rode up it as fast as I could and then rode the rest of my miles at whatever pace I felt like it. Where I live in Liverpool there aren’t really many hills but I also sprinted up the little ones we have. Having a goal has been hugely motivational for me and it has enabled me to challenge myself more than I otherwise would. I have improved every time I have gone up each hills and set personal records on both hills on race day. I have surpassed my own expectations again and again of what I can do and yet I feel I am still only just beginning!
The races themselves were fun, I didn’t come last and nobody laughed at me! It wasn’t so scary after all. Having other women that were faster than me has really inspired me. It’s great to see what is possible. Each race I did I learnt something on the first race I started off in too low a gear I (I was worried about the standing start which I had never done before). In the second race up Mow Cop I was still very scared of the steepest part of the climb, which is about 24 per cent I think. Although I have been up the hill 5 times now and managed it each time I need more practice in order to feel more confident, it’s hard! I will definitely be back next year for more….My advice to you if you are a woman and you want to race on a bike is to give it a go, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Once you have done your first one it will never feel that daunting again.
Here is a short video my first race up the horseshoe pass.