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For the Love of Cycling – A Day in the Life of an Amateur Bike Racer

A couple of months ago I woke up bright and early to do my first road race of the season. As I went throughout my usual race day routine I began to think about the not-so-glamorous things we go through to race bikes. You have to have a great love of the sport to be willing to endure many of the race day events week after week. It’s not all enjoyable, but if you love what you are doing at the end of the day it is worth it.

A Timeline of my Race Day Events – April 8th 2017

4:30am – BEEP BEEP BEEP! My alarm blares and jolts me awake. It is still dark outside and I wonder, for a moment, why I am doing this. Part of me is tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I know I will regret that decision when I wake up again a couple of hours later. I throw myself out of the confines of my warm bed and into the cold early morning darkness.

5:00am – I feel nauseous. I try to eat breakfast but am still too tired, so I fold down the seats in my car and jam my bike, helmet, shoes and other gear in. The morning is very chilly so I bring a whole bag of extra clothing just in case. I have arm warmers, knee warmers, tights, shoe covers; my bag is packed with a plethora of black fleece lined spandex.

How I feel about getting up early and racing in the cold. BRRR!!

How I feel about getting up early and racing in the cold. BRRR!!

5:15am – Depart the house (it’s still dark outside). The race is two hours and fifteen minutes away in the middle of Pennsylvania Amish Country. I start my car begin the long grueling drive for a race that will probably only last approximately an hour and a half. Yes, that is four and half hours of driving for ninety minutes of racing.

6:15am – Sleep sounds good right about now…. WAIT I AM DRIVING! Stop at a gas station to get coffee as I start to feel sleepy behind the wheel.

7:00am – Stop at another gas station and decide to add some extra layers on in the bathroom. Even though it is dirty gas station bathroom it is better and easier than trying to add clothes while contorting myself in my small car or in the confines of a lovely porta-potty.

7:15am – Get stuck behind a horse and buggy while trying to find the parking lot for this race amidst the cornfields. I briefly wonder if drafting off a horse and buggy is legal and what the top speed of those things really is.

7:30am – I finally make it to the parking lot. It is forty degrees and extremely windy as I reluctantly step out of my car. I have visions of my warm bed sitting two and a half hours away.

7:45 am –  I pin my race number on it to my jersey and proceed to ride around in circles in the parking lot trying to stir up some warmth in my body. The warmth isn’t really coming so I try to think warm thoughts.

8:20am – The corn is rustling in the fields as the winds continue to intensify. I line up with a group of about thirty other shivering women and get ready to get this race started! As I wait on the line I get the pre race feelings of stomach pain and nausea as the nerves start to kick in.

8:30am –  The Start of the Race!

8:32amMy legs are on fire! Who’s idea was this anyway??

8:40am – I continue to push myself and my legs start to open up and cooperate. All of a sudden I don’t feel the cold as much anymore. I am focused on the wheel in front of me and on not letting any gap open up between that wheel and my own.

8:50am – The wind is quickly blowing this race to smithereens. The group is splintering all over the scenic farmland roads of central Pennsylvania.

9:00am – My legs are burning again and I briefly wonder why I got up so early and drove so far to do this in the first place. I quickly push those thoughts aside and get back to the task at hand, picking up other riders on the race course and working together to make it to the finish.

10:00am – I cross the finish line, tired and windblown, but exhilarated. Even if this wasn’t my best race finish I still feel the adrenaline rush of pushing myself through the pain in my legs, through the pain of the wind, through the pain of the long drive and early morning wakeup time and all the way to the finish. This feeling is why I do this.

10:30am – I load my stuff back into my car and get ready for the two hour and fifteen-minute drive home. I am happy that I threw myself out of bed and took on the challenge of this cold early season race. I remember that the love I have for riding and racing my bike outweighs pretty much all of the negatives. I think of a quote that resonates with me, “I don’t ride my bike to add days to my life. I ride my bike to add life to my days.” Some people were probably just getting out of bed at this point in the morning, but I had already had a day full of adventures and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet.

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