My First Bike Race

Last Sunday was my goal ride for 2017; I competed in the Gran Fondo NY Bear 50. Ride organizers were careful to call it a ride and not a race, but from all indications, we were racing! I was definitely racing myself. Had I accomplished my training goals? Could I find the self-motivation to complete a goal that took planning to fit in workouts, pushing myself harder than ever on the trainer over the winter, and challenging myself on rides outdoors?

I travelled to cyclist check-in on Friday in NYC. It had been awhile since I felt the pre-race jitters of standing in line with a bunch of fit people who love to ride bikes – nerves and anticipation flowing. My Newington Bike Women’s Cycling Initiative t-shirt was a great conversation starter!

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After spending Saturday morning shuttling kids to sporting events, packing my gear and taking a short ride to make sure my bike was ready (and battling a severe case of nerves), I took off for my hotel in NJ.

Handling the weekend logistics – juggling family, travel and racing – was part of my goal as well. Could I really pull this off?! My alarm rang at 4AM on Sunday (I wasn’t really sleeping, anyway!). I forced down a bagel and banana, packed my stuff in my car and met the 5:15AM escorted group ride from Fort Lee, NJ to the NYC side of the George Washington Bridge.

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Hundreds (thousands?) of us made our way across the upper level of the GWB in the pre-dawn light – it was a perfect weather day and the city skyline was stunning as we crossed the bridge on the way to the start. The starting line was on the west-bound lower level of the GWB. Bag check, security check, etc. done, I headed onto the bridge for the wait to start!

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I crossed the starting line at 7:11AM, nerves and music pumping. The crowd of bikes was intimidating, but I worked hard to stay in my own head and remember the tips I had read in preparation. I was confident I was prepared for the distance and terrain; it was the mass of bikes that I was worried about. We began to spread out after the first few miles. My hill climbing workouts paid off because I was able to get past crowds on the uphills. I’ll admit that finding some space on the left side of the crowd and cranking by people was really great-I couldn’t help but think of some of the trainer workouts I had done and the extra hills I added to some of my workouts.

Since this was my first bike race other than triathlons, I tried to enjoy, watch and learn from others and go as fast as I could : ) The course was varied – some really fast downhills, great flats and plenty of challenging uphills. The course ended at the top of Bear Mountain – a 1278’ climb that was about 4 miles long. That climb took me 29 minutes, but I never stopped spinning or thinking about the fact that at the top of the hill was the moment I had been preparing for.

I reached the finish in 3:12:38. I had done it.

Oh, and I also made it back from NJ in time for my kids’ 7PM Piano Recital that night.  Mission accomplished!

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