The context was Napa Valley Dirt Classic. I'm always interested in checking out the course of this unique race. The race seems to be well known because quite a few people I know have raced it; yet, it almost has that underground feel to it. Plus, the requirement of "no preride" has added some mystery to it, at least for people like me who have not raced it before. My friend Jeanne wanted to do it. She had raced it a few times before and remembered it being very fun. Erik encouraged me to go (he will go climbing that day instead). That's when the internal debate started.
Beginner or Sport?
I truly believe skill-wise, I don't belong in Sport category, but I remember how guilty I felt last year at Boggs IV when I won the Womens Solo Beginner class. (I had later found peace when I realized that by the first lap performance, I wasn't too off for being in the Beginner class. It was only by non-stop pedaling that I managed to go around the course 8 times.) But I know, by signing up Sport, I would have no chance of winning at all, zero, nil, zilch! To be a true Sport rider, one should be able to descend confidently and corner smoothly, neither of which I can do. But both Jeanne and Erik think I'm too fast for Beginner class. How can that be? A quick introspection reveals that I'm not a balanced rider. I still have not mastered the descending and cornering skills so I slow down where everyone else is able to make good time, but I'm a decent climber and I have fairly good endurance. What does that make me then?
To save myself from the agony, I decided not to race. How about I just drive up on the race day, go play at Oat Hill Mine (read: technical climbing and descending) in the morning, and then go ride the course by myself after the race before they tear down the course markers? Erik's answer, "No, you ride it in the race."
- M: But, but, I don't know what category I should sign up in.
- E: Sport
- M: But, but, I'm still a Beginner rider.
- E: No, you are not a Beginner rider. You keep telling yourself that, but you are not.
- M: But, but, I'm slow.
- E: No, you are not slow any more. Again, you keep telling yourself that. Even in your very latest blog post, you said, "Being a mudworm, I'm slow." But you are not slow! Everyone we ride with tell me how fast you've become.
- M: But, but, I'm slow going downhill and on the flats.
- E: Just sign up, and go ride. This will be a good opportunity for you to learn that it's okay not to win. Sign up now and don't think about it any more!
- M: Okay… I guess…
So I signed up, in the same class as my friend Jeanne, a much more experienced and skilled rider. I felt relieved though now that I had made a choice (that I would never feel guilty about). It was in that conversation that I had an epiphany. The reason I kept saying to myself and everyone else that I was slow was because I had a different expectation — I expected myself to be a faster, more balanced rider. It could be my wishful thinking in play, or it might just be my ego. It's good to be reminded that I should just be patient with myself, enjoy my riding as it is, and enjoy any little progress I make along the way.
Now, I can't wait to get back on my bike. Ever since that Coe ride last weekend, I have been suffering severely sore throat and very achy body everyday. It finally came down hard this Saturday. I had asked for today (Monday) off because my vacation was about to overflow, but all I can do now is bundled up and rest. I had lost my voice completely, but at least, it's the first time in a week that I didn't wake up to knife-stabbing pain caused simply by swallowing. I think I might just be able to recover fully by the race. Now, I still have that new bike to dial in. Maybe I can do it by just staring at it in the living room…