I miss running races, and I know it might take years for me to get back to that (if I ever do) at the rate that my PT rehab is going. But one thing I can do that doesn’t hurt my SI joint is biking, and I’ve been doing a ton of it lately!
After a couple 20 mile rides and one particularly hilly 9 mile ride with friends, I felt like I was ready to tackle my first bike race: the Bike for Women! It’s a 9 mile hilly road race in Chugiak, a nearby suburb of Anchorage. When registration opened up months ago I thought it would be the perfect practice ride for the Gold Nugget Triathlon, which I’m doing in less than two weeks (ahhhhh!). But I’ve kind of been dreading it ever since. I’m not fast at anything I do, and biking is really hard for me to be fast at because the downhills scare me and I brake too much. I’ve googled this, and apparently it’s a pretty common thing. But I was incredibly nervous on Sunday morning as I waited for my wave to start. Would everyone be super fast and have super speedy looking bikes and race kits?
Bike for Women is a time trial race, meaning that each person starts alone and there are 20 seconds between each cyclist. Women of all ages and abilities do this race – from 9 year old girls to older women on all types of bikes. I saw a really young girl riding with a pink basket on the front of her bike, and I also saw a lot of women with those fancy road bikes with super thin tires. Most of us were rocking some form of a road bike and were wearing rain jackets because the weather was so cold and cloudy. I looked just like most of the girls and women out there, and that made me feel so much better about my ability to do it.
I also knew a lot of the women there! It was fun running into people that I was friends with, and I was so excited to see that the two people directly behind me in line were my friend and her daughter. Once it was finally my turn to go, I nervously talked to the timing guy until he gave me my final countdown and I was off!
I immediately noticed two things about the course: there was lots of gravel and potholes on the shoulder where I was riding which was going to make me freak out about going fast, and the start of the race was on a downhill – which I’d have to bike up towards the finish line. Despite these first observations, I pedaled hard and tried not to brake too much on the downhills so that I wouldn’t lose speed. After a few minutes, I started catching up to and even passing some of the girls on the course. Every time I passed someone on an uphill I was really proud of myself! The hills seemed to go on and on, until we made it to the turnaround point and started to go back up some of the biggest hills I’ve ever done. One of the hills was incredibly long, and I passed girls who were gasping “I think I need to walk!”. I was tempted to walk too, but kept on powering uphill until I finally reached a downhill and could rest my legs.
At this point, I knew I was probably 7ish miles into the race and didn’t have many more hills until the finish line hill. But I started losing steam and got passed by 3 people (who were wearing fancy bike jerseys so I clearly couldn’t hang with them anyways). I made sure to cheer for everyone on both sides of the course so that I could keep my spirits up as I powered up the final hill. When I finally saw the cop car flashing in the distance, I knew I was almost at the end and I pushed as hard as I could for a finish of 45:49!
My super secret goal was to finish in 45 minutes, and I’m counting this as a victory! I have to wonder how much faster I would have been on a less hilly course. As soon as I got back to the parking lot I jumped off my bike and headed straight for the snack table, which was amazing. I knew I’d given my all and couldn’t have biked any faster, and I was so proud of myself for not crashing or letting too many people pass me.
This race was so much fun! I loved how supportive everyone was and how women of all different levels and abilities were able to bike together. I’m excited that I met my goal, and can’t wait to see how much faster I can do it next year!
Have you ever done a bike race before? Would you ever try one? Are you nervous about biking downhill really fast like I am?