I do not want to accept it, but I know when people look at the results in the future, that's what they would think of me (or rather, that name printed on the result sheet because they don't really know me in person). I can't change the fact that I not only won the Beginner Women's class (that I signed up for), but also I could have placed 2nd in the Sport Women's class. I thought about asking them to move me up into Sport, but our friend, Krishna, failed to convince the race organizer to move him up from Sport to Expert (his was a registration error), so I did not try. Plus, what right did I have to suddenly step in and push the rest of the Sport class down by one position? Yes, Boggs IV has made me a sandbagger, and I'll have to live with that. (Edit: to be disputed. See the bottom of the post.)
However, one thing I can say for myself is it was an honest mistake — I did not expect myself to do so well. On my pre-rides, my best lap time, obtained when I was fresh, was 1 hour and 10 minutes. It's natural to assume that one will be more tired on each additional lap. Considering it's an 8-hour race, I set my expectation to ride six laps. But what's more important for me was I also set my goal, which was to ride as much as I could. That meant even if I had been the only one in my class and could have won with only one lap, I would still have ridden all full 8 hours just to meet my goal.
What went wrong (or right depending how you look at this sandbagger issue) is: 1) The organizer gave us an 8-hour cut off for final departure and 9-hour cut off for last lap return; 2) I only learned from the race that even though I was more tired on each lap than on the previous one, I got more familiar with the course that I was able to go just a little faster on the downhill and flats, so my lap time did not differ too much (all within five minutes of each other); 3) obviously, not carrying a full camelbak on my back like I did at pre-rides and having racers coming up behind me all the time helped me set my pace quite a bit faster. When I finished the 1st lap, I had 1:00 on my stop watch, and that was when I realized that I could fit eight laps within 9 hours. I could hardly believe that realization, but I was determined to fulfill my goal.
I paused at the pit stop to swap water bottles only after my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th laps, and even when I stopped, I did not get off my bike. One foot on the bank, reached down to get a bottle, occasionally tossed a layer, and off I went. The only time I got off my bike was on Lap 3 when I answered nature's quick call behind a bush. When I came in after my 8th lap at 8:32'35", I knew I had been peddling for at least 8 hours and 15 minutes. Erik gave me a high five. Even though he had to drop out of the race after five laps due to excruciating knee pain, he had a big grin on his face because of me. I was happy too. Erik told me that I had already won after my 7th lap when I rode by him at the pit stop, but I still continued riding without stopping because I knew my goal was not about winning, but about riding as much as I could. I met my goal!
The truth is in my entire life, I had never ever won any sports event, period. Before I moved to california, I was in my previous life and did not know what sports were. During the past seven years in the golden state, my mindset changed, my lifestyle changed, and I changed. I've taken on rock climbing, scuba diving, mountain biking, and road biking. I've pushed my limit here and there (with the help of my dear husband). Every time, it brought us great surprise and joy. This race to me was more about discovering my potentials in a new area. How would I perform in an endurance event? How would my mind and body hold up? I think I have the answers now.
Edit: (added on April 23)
The results are out. A close inspection reveals that I may not be a sandbagger at all. Everyone's time for the 1st lap indicates their real riding levels because it does not involve pit stop. My time is indeed the fastest in the Beginner Women's class (although there were only three of us), but it did not really stand out in the Sport Women's class. I have given it some thoughts after the race. In the beginning, I felt guilty for having won the race because I did not want to be called a sandbagger. But the more I thought about it, the more I made peace with myself. There are people who have been riding for a decade and longer, and I know they are more comfortable on their bikes than me walking on land, yet they still keep entering races as a beginner until they can win the class consistently. I've only had my bike for two years and ridden actively for one year, I still find myself doing the beginners' death grip from time to time, I stiffen up whenever there is a turn, I pray hard when I go downhill, so whom am I kidding — of course, I'm a beginner! I don't want to stay a beginner forever, but I have made peace with myself that I entered the race honestly and I should just feel proud for having pushed myself hard throughout the ride.