Tuesday, 24 June
If you've never been to Elkhorn or Baker City, I'm sure you're sick of the thread of my recent posts, so I'll try to get it all out of my system with this one.
Walking into the showers at the high school gym after Sunday's epic road stage, a woman I've raced with for years asked what motivates me to keep coming back--to Elkhorn and to racing in general. She confessed that if she can't be top 10, she doesn't want to pay her money to race, and she wondered what I get out of a race if there's no ego boost. I was--believe it or not--at a loss for articulate words, but I said something about setting different goals and expectations, and just being there, and I surely wouldn't work as hard to get as much out of it if I hadn't paid my entry fee, and I reminded her that without me down there as pack fill, she wouldn't have anyone to beat. [You're thinking she's a horribly competitive, egotistical person, and she's not. She's great to race with, and I'm always happy when she's at a race.] Since then, I've thought of more coherent reasons--or rationalizations, if you prefer--why I continue to race my bike even during a season with scarce results.
Aging men typically get their own race categories at stage races, but not so for the ladies. The top of GC in my race at Elkhorn was filled with women 20 years younger than me. Maybe I'm not supposed to use age as an excuse, but there's no denying that it's a factor. Nobody older than me (and there were some in the other women's categories) beat me. I was 4th of 11 women aged 40+ in the race and 2nd of 7 45+ women. Maybe that doesn't sound better than being 25th of 28 in the cat 1-2s, but at least it's a little more competitive. I think only one 40+ woman beat me in the time trial.
There's also the "humans are social creatures" aspect and the "I like to see my husband on weekends" element. There are some wonderful people associated with bike racing, and I truly cherish the time I get to spend among them. Have you ever noticed that there's seldom cocktail party sort of chit-chat among bike racers, that we cut to what's important to us pretty quickly? Because we're often under physical or emotional stress when we see our cycling peers, I think we reveal more of our inner selves more quickly. Sometimes you don't see members of this community for years, and then you're at the same race and the time gap drops away.
Another reason is the reward I feel--especially at events like Elkhorn (is anything "like Elkhorn"?)--watching and helping developing riders surprise themselves with what they really can do. Last year in stage 1 and stage 4, I rode with and, I hope, encouraged two new racers who thought they were way out of their league. One of them, I think, only owned one jersey. I'm happy to report that both of them beat me this year. They are the future of the sport, and if I can help grow that--help them make a sufferfest into a positive experience and make them want to race more--then it's worth my while to be out there. When I get so slow that I'm coming in an hour after the last rider, when there's just one official left sitting in her car at the finish line with her stop watch, I guess that will be the time to ask whether I ought to keep coming back.
OK, if that's too warm and fuzzy and sappy for you, one other thing surprised me in Baker City. Keeneye (whom I'd never heard of) posted a comment on my blog entry Getting to Baker City. So I looked up Keeneye's blog, which said she had just opened a new pizza joint in Baker City, but somehow the blog failed to name the establishment (it does now). Later I was part of a conversation when a Baker native happened to mention a new pizza place and gave a wave in its general direction. So during my crit warmup (which was longer than my crit), I went around blocks until I found a pizza place that looked newish. O.A.D. and I went there for (our anniversary!) dinner after the dust settled from the crit stage. It seemed to be all locals--until the Bend part of the peloton descended. Service was good (if initially confused), pizza was tasty, and the 3 big-screen TVs were pleasing to my partner.
The question is, does Keeneye regularly read my blog (why?) or did she do a massive search and post comments on the blogs of everyone who happened to mention Baker City or the Elkhorn race? She could've done herself a favor if the blog had been a little more explicit about the name and location of her business. But I'm happy. Baker City now has a GREAT deli (Bella's), coffee shop (Mad Matilda's--which opened at 5:30 a.m. during the race so that we could all have our prerace gourmet coffee fix), an award-winning microbrewery (Barley Brown's), super ice cream (Charlie's), and now pizza (Paizano's). If there's a gap in your race schedule next April or early May, this is THE place to go for training camp!
Next up: hats and the farm report. I promise.