The Luckiest Woman in all of Cyclocross

First cyclocross raceLast night I entered my first cyclocross race, The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross. With roughly 8 hours of any type of off-road experience, this may have been crazy. But it was dark and I was on a start line, so when they said “go,” I did.

I was the slowest woman there. Even crossing terrain that real CX racers consider ideal for opening up and sprinting, I was frightened.  Ugh, what was I doing…?    (the best I could with what I had)

I was alone on the dark fields pretty quickly.  I just kept pedaling and doing the best I could.

In my 2nd lap, I regained company as the leaders joined me and passed by in a beautiful combination of power and finesse. Wow.

My confidence improved a tiny bit with each lap. I’m sure this wasn’t visible to anyone else, but I even started shifting. Every word of encouragement from spectators was genuinely supportive and incredibly appreciated. I was last, slow, and ok. Somewhere in the 2nd lap, I started to enjoy the experience and started smiling. I felt like a little kid just having learned to ride a bike. I was wobbly, but doing it.

This is HelenAs I was finishing just my 3rd lap, Helen Wyman came up behind me to finish. This was fine. I’d hoped to be able to finish 4 laps, but I was cool with being done at 3, too. I heard Helen Wyman tell me to sprint. This made no sense-  I can’t sprint.

So, I sprinted across some grass and some non-asphalt, gravely surface, for the first time ever – with Helen Wyman.

She let me cross first so I could get another lap. When the blood returned to my brain, I had mixed feelings about this.

“Stay with me and I’ll show you some lines.” Helen, in her 6th/cool-down lap and I, in my 4th lap, had a private ride of the course. What I lack in cyclocross skills, I make up for in my ability to recognize a rare opportunity and just how incredibly lucky I am. I rode behind her the entire lap thinking, “Are you kidding me?! I’m riding with Helen Wyman. I am SO freakin’ lucky!”

How she signed my son's autographIn that one lap, she encouraged me and she pushed me. What was impossible and terrifying for me during the 3 previous laps somehow became possible.  When I finished my race, I was overwhelmed by my appreciation for everyone who had cheered for me, my family, my friends, new friends, racers, and strangers – each word had mattered, immensely. I was in awe of Helen’s generosity. I loved that I had the privilege of racing on the same course with amazingly talented women including the current 2X European CX Champion. It wasn’t until I got home that I read how she signed my 9 year old son’s postcard.

I was DFL last night. And I may have fallen in love with cyclocross.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. j. d. kimple says:

    That is an awesome story. Most people’s first time for cross isn’t quite as spectacular. So very happy for you. And hey, welcome to ‘cross!

    1. Alex says:

      Right!?! See what I mean about lucky? I get it!
      Thanks for the awesome welcome, j.d.

  2. Jeff says:

    I am so completely jealous! This may be the best DFL story I’ve ever read; it’s certainly the most positive. Yay you!

  3. Kristin says:

    Hi Alex! It’s Kristin, from the clinic! I loved your write-up. I felt the EXACT same as you! Congrats on overcoming your fears and finishing the race. Can’t wait to see you at future races.

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks, Kristin! So, we’re both lucky! I will definitely see you soon.

  4. Dave says:

    You had the biggest smile all race. Which everyone will tell you means you’re doin it completely wrong but secretly they know you’re doing it completely right. Well done.

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks, Dave. (I’m still sming)

  5. archivalerie says:

    There’s a first time for everything and everyone has to be the slowest at some point. I’m glad your first race was fun. My first race was last year’s Night Weasels (I hope to see you there as well!). I pretty much fell in love with CX the first time I wiped out at practice, brushed the dirt and grass off my legs and got back on the bike. We’re all really lucky to be part of such an awesome sport. So rad that you got to ride with Helen Wyman.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hey Alex, it’s Sarah from the clinic and race last night. Awesome writeup on the race, and that had to be the best DFL finish ever! I’ll see you in Gloucester on Sunday! 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    You looked like you were having a great time as I was cheering madly for you on the uphill barriers. THIS is what CX is all about. Welcome to the cult. 🙂

    1. Alex says:

      Thank you so much for cheering! Every bit helped.

  8. Janet says:

    That’s awesome that you got to ride with Helen…you won’t be coming in last for long after a private lesson from her. Keep smilin’ and have fun in the dirt. 🙂

  9. Bob Etzler says:

    Wow, what a wonderful story,something you’ll cherish all your life..

    1. Alex says:

      You better believe it!

  10. Caitlin says:

    If there’s ever a way to be DFL, I’d have to say this is it! What a great story!

  11. What an awesome story! My cross skills leave much to be desired, but I LOVE every second of it – even if I am DFL – What a great experience you had. Keep up the racing 🙂

  12. When my daughter was five she took a guppy life saving course. The instructor was an effortless swimmer, and great with the kids. She saw my daughter was a great kicker who needed a great stroke, so she said ‘grab my legs and kick’ so guppy grabbed Miss Jane’s legs and kicked. For four laps Miss Jane stroked and my daughter kicked they were a great team. Ten years later my daughter is still stoked from that experience, and I think she always will be. Hoping you’ll always be stoked.

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