What's it like to be a Beginner?

Below are 3 perspectives of what it is like to be a newbie
- Kate's View
- Tami's View
- Sue View

Katie’s Newbie Perspective

This was my first official season of racing. I came from a tri background and don't really miss it. Cycling is so much simpler in a way. Not nearly as much stuff to keep track of for a race. No transitions, no wetsuit, goggles, no dilemma over socks/no socks, shoes clipped in or not. Just get on your bike and pedal. But the only thing I do miss is that it was easier for me to identify my strengths (swimming and transitions) and my weaknesses (or as I like to call it, 'my tri-nemesis' which was running). I formed my plan for the off season to work on running, power and endurance. Racing season was usually 3 races. Maybe 5 top. Heavy mental preparation for those select few races and then on the big day, I'd exploit my swim as best as I could to gain time for my abysmal running leg.
Cycling is different. After a season of racing, I'm still not sure what I'm good at and what I'm not. I raced a variety of races but it's still not clear as to what I should do next or focus on for next season. I often over-train and Joel Friel's "Cyclist Bible" makes no sense to me whatsoever. I know it should, but it doesn't. I know I need to hire a coach but I'm reluctant to do so for various reasons. Mostly it's the thought that as a newbie cyclist, I'm just not worth it.
This is the most dangerous train of thought to hop aboard as a Newbie. There are multiple ways on how this sabotages you as an athlete new to racing. Here are some you may be familiar with:
I'm only a Cat 4 so...

I don't have to have a training plan.
My diet doesn't really matter.
Sleep doesn't really matter.
It doesn't matter if I warm up before a race.
It doesn't matter where or when I line up.
I don't deserve to fight for a position in the
registration line
porta-potty line
warm-up laps
race itself
Over-training doesn't apply to me.
An off-season doesn't apply to me.

Obviously this is complete crap when you look at it. However, I would say that it took me at least 10 races before I didn't constantly have these negative trains of thought running through my head. And even yesterday, late into my first cx season (well, late for me), I STILL battled these feelings. That feeling that everyone else who is racing seems to know what's going on more and will be faster.
I think when I start to consider myself "a racer" instead of someone who is "trying out bike racing" then I'll allow myself to succeed. I had several podium finishes over the summer, but always found myself negating them. I'm only a Cat 4. Like it matters. Well, yes and no. Does it matter the way a Cat 1 podium finish matters within the local/national cycling community? No. Does it matter to my two little girls who are 7 and 9? Yes. Do my non-cycling friends and family understand that I'm on the lowest rung of the bike racing ladder? No. They think I'm a super-star. Why not let this misconception go on instead of always immediately dispelling it? I am a completely average athlete, person, and mom. But when I race, even if I suck, I am a superstar. That's what being a newbie racer is. Allowing yourself to become a totally average super-star even if you think you don't deserve it.

What's it like to race? Do you remember that void of not knowing what it is like to race a bike? What will it be like, will I crash and get a compound fracture, will I win and get to do some crazy Peter Sagan victory arm dance thingy? Will I get kissed by two chicks at the same time? But for many this world of shaved legs, embrocation, glued tires and the assumption that everyone dopes, is a lot to take in and to decide to step into if they want to give this cyclcross thing a try. Last year we ran a Coffee Talk Tuesday on Getting more Newbies to try out Bike Racing that got a lot of good discussion. Also last year Primal sponsored a race, Primalpalooza, which had a category that was JUST FOR BEGINNERS and according to ACA records 45 people raced in it. That is 45 people who had never done a cx race before!

This year PrimalPalooza is back September 29th and so is the the Beginner race so tell your friends, co-workers, girlfriends and/or boyfriends, bosses, etc. Learn more about PrimalPalooza

Tami’s Newbie Perspective

I’ve never officially raced a bike before. Unofficially yes. When I got my first (and current) carbon fiber bicycle and rode around the city of Chicago on it, often with friends who had fixies, or less-speedy road bikes, it was not uncommon to find ourselves pedaling as fast as we could before the next light or stop sign and seeing who got there first. Just enough time for the legs to burn a bit, to get that exhilarating feeling of wow, what an amazing machine this bicycle is, and to trigger the habitual thought that mine was worth every penny.

I almost didn’t want to sign up for a racing team because riding my bike was the one thing that didn’t have to be a competition. Being a competitive athlete my whole life, more in the soccer realm than anything else, cycling was something I picked up to commute to and from work, and it was just pure fun. No competition to corrupt it or take away from the thrill of just getting outside, experiencing my surroundings, and riding until my legs were shot. I liked (and still do!) that I could get alone on my bike and think and just ride; no one pushing me or telling me how or where to ride- I got to decide that and discover new routes and push my legs’ limits to compete against myself.

But, I suppose my competitive nature got the best of me somewhere along the way, and I couldn’t shake the thought of joining a team and seeing what racing is like. So, after some online searching for teams in the Colorado area, I happened upon the Cyclist-Lawyer team and sent them an email. The next day I was excited to find they had already responded and were very helpful and welcoming in their response. I continued to look at some other teams but kind of knew all along I wanted to join the Cyclist-Lawyer.

Led by Megan Hottman, the Cyclist-Lawyer seems like just the type of team I want to be a part of. As someone who hasn’t raced before, there’s a lot to be intimidated by, but I love the approach of Megan and several of the other women who were on the team last year. They are eager to share what they have learned/are learning about riding technique and training, and dispel fears for someone like me because they’ve experienced most of the unknowns of racing. As far as I can tell, a get-out-and-try-it, don’t-worry-if-you-fall-on-your-face-a-few-times mentality characterizes this team, and the support is there for before and after those tumbles do take place.
To sum it up, as a veteran rider but virgin racer, (ha) I’m excited to learn, train, improve, and ride with a fantastic group of women who love the adventure of cycling like I do.

Sue’s Newbie Perspective

I have mountain biked for 8 years or so, but never really had the itch to try a race until last spring. I was looking to add a new dimension to my riding, and racing seemed like a good idea. I had no absolutely no idea what to expect in my first mountain bike race other than I was worried about how to pass people during the race. It turns out, passing itself isn't that bad: there comes a point where you want to go faster than the person in front of you and you just need to let them know you are going to pass, how you will pass (e.g., on the left) and thank them afterward. People are generally nice and allow you to pass. Knowing when to pass can be hard because it requires a burst of energy and some strategy, but the passing itself -- easy peasey! Before the start, I figured I'd just take it easy since it was my first ever mountain bike race. Wrong! When the race starts, you can't help but want to push yourself; the trick is knowing how hard to go. On the first lap of the two lap course, I paced behind another racer because her pace felt just a shade slower than I wanted to go and I figured it was good for me to hold back a bit. I ended up passing her on a big downhill and then I was left to decide my own pace. That was the hard part, because I didn't know what I was capable of: ride too slow and you feel like you aren't making the most of the race and ride too fast and you blow up. It's a fine line, but, what I realized that day is finding that line is a big part of the fun of racing for me. I also realized that racing is an opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses because the pressure situation really highlights them, and it is an opportunity to test myself in ways I just can't do in my day-to-day rides. It is these realizations that encouraged me to do more racing; it's helped me grow considerably as a rider because I learn so much from each event and can apply the knowledge to improve my riding.

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