I don't know, I reply, I've tried the Vail Lake course and it was kinda technical. I don't know if I want to race something I can't even ride. Who cares? was the response. This is Sea Otter, we can all get a hall pass for once, let's just go and have fun. I ponder this for a while. Five days of nothing but bikes, and camping to boot. This October will be my fortieth birthday, maybe I gotta do this. I sign up on New Years eve after I've had a few and before I can use the next day price increase as an excuse to back out. We're going.......
In the months leading up to the race, I am strangely not nervous at all, and kind of excited. I work on some fundamentals and try to make small improvements here and there. Let go of that front brake, dummy! According to Strava, I appear to be somewhat of a decent rider, especially on familiar trails. The race schedule appears. I have signed up for Enduro/DH, meanwhile all my guy friends are stressed out over their XC race. (wimps!) I secretly think to myself.
We arrive at Mecca (Sea Otter) Wed night and check in late so no time to pre-ride. The schedule says Enduro practice 7-9a, race at 9a. WTF? My first race and I get to ride it blind. Sweet. I will later admit this made it a little more fun. I manage to get in one run on the downhill stage. No face plant and nobody passed me, so this is already a victory for me. The categories are "Pro" and "Everybody Else". I check out the other women in line with me. Everyone looks bad ass and there is chatter about many previous races. WTF am I doing here? I get to talking and find that I am not the only newbie. Everyone is incredibly welcoming and encouraging. Many thanks to Jenn from the Bay area who gave me a quick lesson on how to start in the gate and get out fast. My Turn arrives. From somewhere deep down the competitive athlete that ruled my teens and twenties emerges and I am weirdly calm. Stage 1 downhill complete. No face plant and no one passed me . Uh oh, this might actually be super fun.
We ride several miles to the next stage which gives me time to focus and realize I'm really enjoying myself. I can't say enough about my fellow riders, everyone was so friendly and supportive. I ride up with Regina, who didn't tell me she was planning to be on the podium later. (good job, girl!) Stage 2 is right in my wheelhouse; long and flowy with lots of twists. I hit the end of the dirt and find myself in coned off pavement. What's this ? Do I keep going? I start to feel a little silly pedaling at top speed down this road, but not nearly as stupid as I feel after I easy off a bit and THEN SEE THE FINISH! Good god, that's the first and last time I'll make that rookie mistake. Honestly, I am having so much fun I (almost) don't care about the 30 or so seconds I just wasted. The pedal to the next stage takes forever, and I can see everyone else is just as irritated. However, the views are beautiful and having decent endurance I mange to get there feeling surprisingly good. Stage three keeps me grinning like a kid on Christmas morning. This is seriously the most fun I have ever had on my bike! Finally, (after more pedaling) the dual slalom! We all try and offer our place in line to the person behind us who looks faster. I didn't even know what this was, but I know I'm doing it next year! And in under a minute...it's over.
It's over! I have no illusions about winning anything but for my first race on a blind course I know I rocked it. The confidence and focus it took to actually do this will carry over long after Sea Otter. I am so excited that could even hang with such a strong and amazing field of riders. In my (almost 40) yrs of living I have found that many of the things you are most afraid of will turn out to be the most beneficial. My only expectation going into this event was to try not to appear like I had no business being there. I accomplished that and so much more. I spent the rest of the day with a cold IPA(s) and an adrenaline high fueled by pure joy. I hope I can persuade anyone who is on the fence about racing to just sign up and go for the sheer fun of it. You will cross the final finish a totally different rider. Don't place any expectations on yourself other than to do your personal best; the experience is enough of a prize.
Just do it......
Written by Laura Boase. Laura is a member of our new GGR San Diego Chapter.