Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ever Since I moved to Colorado I have been wanting to do a bike race. Last spring it was my intention to do so but I got wrapped up in ultra running and felt like every time I got on my bike, it turned out to be a recovery spin because I was tired from running so much. So I never ended up racing and basically just participated in the social events. This year, however, I was determined to not let any distractions take precedence over my years of desire. The team's main sponsor last year was Boulder Performance Network and due to numerous reasons for stepping down, our new main Sponsor is Big Ring Cycles. Besides the fact that they are an amazing shop and have great service, they also are my sponsor as a triathlete. Some of the team that lives in Boulder sees a bit of frustration that the shop located in Golden, Colorado. However, I see it as well worth the commute with all they have done for me and the team.

There is a nice little mixed dirt road/paved loop that is about a 15 minute run from the High School I teach at is located. I used to run there from my classroom after school quite frequently because it was a nice little 90 minute workout that included an off road/paved mix. To give the non-Coloradians an idea of what it was be like out here on the front range of the Rockies, here is a picture of me after a trail run last April after running the Koppenburg Bike course loop.

This is what it looks like to get caught in a freak front range snowstorm where heavy wet snow starts blowing with wind gusts of 50+ mph. Now that you get the idea of the freakish weather that can occur out here in spring, I would like to talk a bit more about my first bike race ever-Koppenburg.

This circuit style course starts on road and turns to dirt for a couple miles. The hardest part about this particular race were 2 things: the really steep hill at a 16% grade and the wind gusts at 50 mph.

With Ironman Hawaii less than 6 months away, I am trying to have fun with my first experience of being on a team and not taking as serious as I sometimes find myself doing with triathlon. Having my first race as an off road race with a steep incline was definitely putting me out of my comfort zone. I am very used to riding for hours on mostly smooth roads and not having to worry too much about strategy, drafting, and tactics.

Basically, I got off on the wrong foot before this race even started. During my arrival to the race, I realized that the weather was much cooler than I had contemplated- about 38 degrees. The wind was picking up and there was only 30 minutes to the Cat 4 women's start. Being the sometimes absent minded individual that I am, (and the previous night wine indulgence) I had also forgotten my watch. I decided to ride the multi-loop course in the 30 minutes that I had. It shouldn't of taken more than 15 minutes and was a great warm-up. When I got to the hill I had a good start and felt fairly confident climbing up it.
However, the brand spanking new shorts I was wearing had a mind of their own and made it very hard for me to stay steady when I returned to a seated climb when the incline became sandy about halfway up to the top. As a result, I slipped and fell of my bike. My first reaction was that it was no big deal. I felt pretty sore in my girly area but got back on and finished the loop.
Once I came back to the registration area and hit the bathroom, I realized that I hurt myself worse than I had thought. On top of that, I also realized the race was starting about .25 miles away in 2 minutes. I jetted over to the start where I was greeted by my coach. I told him "I cut myself" and I wasn't so sure he got what I was talking about. The race started, and I stood there debating whether I should attempt the race with my "injury".
I had this moment of flight or fight. A myriad of thought started going through my head- flashes of my past like when I didn't start XC races in High School because of anxiety and hating and worries of failure. Then came to mind not starting Ironman Lake Placid 5 years ago because of immense pressure and my fear of the swim.

Not willing to pay the consequences of the decision not to race, I choose fight! 30 seconds after the pack of riders went off, I started.
I caught the pack in about 10 minutes and had a back in forth the whole race. The decision to run the bike up the hill after my injury made me loose a bit of time but I was able to catch up on later parts of the loops. In the end I placed 4th. I have some skill to learn in bike racing and not let everyone draft off me most of the race and try to take advantage of working off other cyclists.

This short 40 minute, 3 loop course was painful but a refreshing reminder of how I have been trying to live my life in resent history: slightly out of my comfort zone.
Everyday, (and sometimes it's easy to get away from this) try and push yourself to what you want. If you don't take chances and some risk, you will never get to where you want to be. We are capable of so much and living outside of what always feels safe allows us to get closer to our true abilities.


  1. Great job Julie, You just keep kicking it up another notch!!