I love competing in races. I love seeing how hard I can push myself and how hard I can go. And I love crossing the finish line completely spent, feeling like I learned something new.
I remember showing up to the start line of my first race. I didn't know any of the other ladies I was lining up next to and as I listened to them talk about the course and upcoming races I felt like the odd one out.
Feeling that way didn't last long though. The moment I crossed the finish line I was being congratulated by the other women I had just raced against and introductions were made. The same thing happened again at my next race and the next one after that and before long I was getting invited out on group rides and being shown how to get over log piles without crashing my brains out.
That’s how I discovered another benefit of racing...friends! I met some of my closest female friends while lining up at the start line together. I can’t help but wonder how long and how far I would have gone in cycling if the scenario had been different. The fact that I was instantly accepted and included by the women in my cycling community made riding easier and more fun. Their support and encouragement has been invaluable throughout the years as I progressed in racing.
One of my favorite traveling buddies is my good friend (and Grand Rapids Bicycle Company/45NRTH teammate) Jill Martindale. She and I started traveling to races together two years ago when she was first started racing bikes and the rest is, as they say, is “selfie history.”
We became fast friends and I’m trying to help her out as much as I can by helping her train, sharing my secrets and introducing her to all of my favorite endurance races. I’ve been asked more than once if I’ll stop giving her workouts if/when she beats me and my answer is always the same; NO WAY. I’ll give her a hug, congratulate her on an awesome race, and then give her even harder workouts so that she can keep getting stronger. Of course I’ll continue to train just as hard so that I can try and beat her back! That’s what friends are for! :-)
Photos courtesy of Jack Kunnen...
This winter I’ve had the opportunity to race on the 45NRTH women’s fat bike team. Being able to race with such strong ladies has been one of the best experiences of my life. We are extremely competitive and train hard. We pull up to the start line on our Salsa Beargrease bikes with every intention of winning, and push ourselves to the limit to achieve that result. There are times when we cross the finish line completely elated with our performance and there are times when we cross the finish line disappointed. But one thing stays the same; we are always there to wish each other luck at the start line and we are always waiting for each other at the finish.
Photo courtesy of Erik Olsen...
I learned that racing against my teammates and other strong female racers is the best way to get stronger myself. Regardless of whether I win or lose I always dig deeper then I could ever do riding alone or without competition.
Let’s face it, in most races female cyclists are still a minority and sometimes treated like an afterthought. There are still race promoters who refuse to offer equal payments to female classes and every once in a while I’ll hear someone use the phrase “ride like a girl,” or “I can’t believe a girl passed me” to infer that females aren’t as strong or as fast.
Luckily these instances are becoming fewer and farther between. My hope is that in the future promoters won’t have to make a big deal about offering an equal payout. It will just be the norm.
And that the saying “ride like a girl” will only be used to describe strength, courage and speed.
I hope that female cyclists will get the same amount of media exposure and financial support as male cyclists, but in the meantime I’m going to keep racing against my BFF (and her BFF, and her BFF) and we will continue to push each other hard during the races. I will continue to congratulate them when they have a great race and continue to be there for them if they don’t. We owe it to ourselves to be supportive of each other and to encourage each other to continue to get out there and race and ride. This way we can all continue to improve, riding faster and stronger.
Photo courtesy of Bridgit Sandel...
More importantly I think we owe it to all of the younger female cyclists who are watching us and mirroring their behavior after us. We are creating a bright cycling future for them! Let’s keep it up, ladies!
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These are a few of my favorite things: Mountain biking, good coffee, good food, and hanging out with my husband, family and adopted greyhound. It really doesn't take much to make me happy. Of course, winning a race every now and then is good too! www.daniellemusto.blogspot.com