The season opener is an exuberant experience. Whether it is your first time or you have been there before, the scene with the pre-ride, the pit zone set-up, the sounds, together with the teams and hundreds of riders is exhilarating. Your heart beats a little faster, your anticipation runs a little higher.
For Ord is a special place for me. Two years ago as freshman rider in my first race ever I finished fifth, I made the podium. The seed was planted, I loved this sport! The next few races as a result of mechanical problems and inexperience I would not make podium again that season. Yet, I started to get it together and finished eighth at the state championship. At the end of the season, I was awarded a tremendous honor by my Cycling Development coaches with the Most Improved Rider trophy.
Last year, I won the season opener at Ford Ord in the Sophomore Girls division. 2018 was a dream season, I won all my races including the state championship. Again I was honored with a Most Improved Athlete award, this time by the NICA Norcal League. The metaphor continues, the seed germinated.
At the end of last season I compared my times to the top varsity riders and knew I had to get faster to race with the best. With two most improved awards on my shelf, I was determined to increase my endurance and improve my handling skills. I rode and rode and then went to gym for spin. I rode by myself and sought out teammates and coaches for rides. I just rode my bike a lot. And I might add I found a renewed interest in nutritious eating and the importance of a good sleep.
Team practices began in December and put me in a familiar rhythm. Nearly a hundred kids and a dozen coaches riding bikes, testing limits, building character, and having a good time.
Race weekend. My Scott Spark is tuned, washed, and lubed. My brand new Gladiator kit by Jakroo is packed along with my SIS race fuel. Look sharp, act sharp, be sharp. In the car for the Sacramento drive to Monterey with a stop for lunch. Saturday afternoon pre-ride. Team dinner. Early bedtime. Sunday morning oatmeal breakfast. Team meeting. Warm-up on the trainer. Off to staging for the 9 o’clock start time. I’m ready.
This year I am racing varsity. Call-ups places me in the second row. The goodwill banter with my fellow riders relaxes me a bit. My strategy is always to ride with the lead group, calm any nerves and get comfortable, and see what happens.
You will always hear coaches and well wishers say to go out and have fun. I always have fun. There is not any place I would rather be, there is not anything I would rather do. I like to think my parents have instilled in me an ability to moderate the highs and lows. I want to do well, I want to ride my best. If I prepare properly and try my hardest, I will be happy with my result. The thrill of racing is to test my physical endurance, use my technical skills, and make good decisions.
We’re off. The course begins with a short 50-yard jolt up a hill with a decent incline. At the top we funnel into single-track. I am happy with the pace, I get comfortable quickly. Four riders begin to separate from the field. Last year’s NorCal League North Conference varsity champion Haley Randel [Redwood High School] was in the lead with JV state champion Audrey Fehlhaber [Sir Francis Drake High School], Meigan Butler [Humbolt Composite], and me following.
Somewhere in the first lap I move into second place behind Haley. About midway into the second lap I took the lead. Meigan moved into second place, but I sensed Haley and Audrey were close. In the third and final lap I kept the pace up. Meigan made a few attempts to pass me but I willed enough energy to stay in front. I was in first place and determined to give my all and not leave out anything on the course.
First varsity race, first place. I am amazed and feel overwhelming joy. Thank you teammates and coaches, family and friends, fellow riders and the NorCal League. The boundless encouragement means a great deal to me of which I will never take for granted.
In the days after the race as I write this, I savor the victory a bit then think about the next race. I have goals which I keep to myself. With the Ford Ord race I met a primary goal. I can race with the best. Stiff competition will show up again at the next race and as the season continues more fine riders will be in the mix.
My Dad says the word “complacency” is far worse than any four-letter word I have heard. Note to self: Do not open that door. Stay away. And remember, not too high, not too low. Keep practicing, stay healthy, have fun.
Springtime brings green shoots, the metaphor continues.