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March 1, 2015 – Cherry Pie Crit – Napa, CA – 23/30 place
Sunday morning, near perfect weather conditions, brisk, cold, sunny, full of potential. Grateful for my friend Brandy, who I picked up at the shop, kept my mind occupied on the drive over. Park and find the Velo Wrench tent set up with bikes, trainers, and bros. The races have already started. I have an hour before my catagory takes the coarse. Head over to the register table. They ask for my racing license number (good question). After bumbling around I track it down online. Newbie lesson #1 – Know your racing license number (or at least where to find it online, thank you smart phones). Back at the tent I get assistance pinning my number on my jersey. Pinning, a ritual that asks you to trust your helper not poke you, as let me remind you, your jersey is skin tight. Reminds me of pinning the corsage to my prom dates jacket, all the nervous excitement channeled through to the tip of a tiny metal pin. A quick round on the stationary trainer to raise the heart rate, warm up, and break a little sweat.

At the start of the coarse I greet some of the other racers. Best advice I’ve gotten from a veteran racer was to make friends with the girls I race with because most likely I will be riding with them all season (I’ve already found this to be true).

Christopher Stricklen (who has a beautifully curated Instagram feed @creedub), raced the Men’s Cat 5 at Cherry Pie and posted this video below. It’s a great preview of the coarse and gives you a sense of the energy and sounds that go on when your in a race. You’ll hear a lot of “Hold your line” which when riding in close quarters it’s important to be predictable and not sideswipe your fellow riders (same idea as when driving your car in lanes on the freeway). Not that you have to watch the whole video, but I would suggest at least checking out the last few minutes as Christopher’s sprint at the end was quite impressive.

Back to my race. This being my first official race I have so much to learn and not just strategy but also discovering my own strengths and weaknesses. Like one such weakness … I’m a creature of comfort. I found a wheel I was comfortable staying behind and stuck there. The pack road wide and I couldn’t see much opening for me to move forward, so towards the back I stayed. And let me just be clear … being in the back of the pack sucks. Not only is it actually the most unsafe spot, but you also end up using more energy surging then braking (what I like to call the yo-yo effect). As the laps started counting down I could hear my coach yell “MOVE UP”, but how, and where, and who, and when? So I stayed comfortably uncomfortable once again. Also, not helping the situation about halfway through the race there was a crash right behind me and although I could not see a thing, the pure sound of metal to cement shocked me right out of any focus ‘zone’ I might have been trying to perform in. It was like a tin can being crunched by Paul Bunyan’s boot. To say the least, unsettling (although I’m happy to report the girl was able to walk away from the crash ok). So the final sprint came and the race was over … and I felt … eeh. I felt clumsy, chaotic, and not that great. All the self defeating thoughts rushed to my brain. I’m not good enough. I’m a wimp. Scaredy-cat. Weak. BUT WAIT!!!!!!!! I had just finished my first race EVER. Give me a break. I mean really … Emily, give yourself a break. Freakin’ celebrate the face you finished a RACE. A race that one year ago you would have only dreamed in competing in. In fact, you did dream about racing in.

Fascinating right? The brain. The power of our thoughts. So, I decided to stop picking on myself and rather pat myself on the back. Gathering all the lessons learned (cause, oh my, there was many), I’ll come back again stronger. I’ll continue training. And for heavens sake … I will have fun in the process. So with that my friends, love yourself and please be patient in your process, cause there’s so much good work to be done.

Now time to go ride my bike!