By Cheri Felix
Let me start by saying that I’m a fairly seasoned racer. I don’t finish races thinking “I’m just lucky to be out here.” I usually finish races thinking “Oh! 6th! Too bad it wasn’t 5th!” What I’m trying to say is that I line up knowing that I will place either in the middle or possibly, on a good day, in the upper 1/3. There is data to back this up. But wow, this past Sunday, I was really shaking my head. If you’re new to cyclocross racing let me share a few things I’ve found to be true:
- Every course is different.
- Each course plays to someone else’s strengths while possibly shining a huge spotlight on your own weaknesses.
- It depends on who shows up. You can place well one week and not the next if the strongest six women show up.
- It’s an extremely humbling sport.
- No one cares about your result (or your tire pressure) as much as you do.
Now, again, this was not my first rodeo. This is my 4th season of racing cross and I believe my 10th season of racing bikes in general. I know how this goes. I’m not going to win. And unless I have a mechanical or I start puking, I won’t come in last. When I was new to racing, maybe I said things like “I’m just happy to be here.” I’m still “happy to be here” but I’m strong and fairly good at the technical bits so I should do FAR better than I did on Sunday. Which leads me to Sunday. I sucked. Sort of big time. Now, if you came in after me, don’t take this to mean you sucked worse or that I’m a sore loser or that I’m demeaning all the other women who came out and gave it their best shot. I mean to say that I personally sucked. Like, I sucked so bad it took me about 8 hours to figure out what happened. It was like one of those mornings in college where you wake up and wonder what you did and with whom.
The best way to describe it is that when the whistle was blown, it was just like that book that Mindy Kaling wrote called “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”. Except in my world, it was “Is Everyone Racing Without Me?”. All of a sudden my people were gone. I was no longer in the race. It was the strangest thing I’ve experienced in racing in a long time. Now, if you’re feeling sad or hurt because you’re thinking this is about you and you think I’m saying something about you, please stop. This is all CHERI. I’ve raced entire seasons of short track and come in last every single week and been lapped every single time. I used to start in the back because “I’m not going to win anyway.” (Bad idea by the way) I know that musical. And I think it’s fair to say that many of us have had this race or this experience at work or with friends. It’s like all of a sudden you’re not on the same playing field. You’re not even playing. You’re not even on the bench. You’re in the stands.
So, since I love racing, I’ll be back out there. But I think there’s a spectrum of us racers. There’s the “just happy to be out here” folks and there’s the “I don’t care where I place” folks and there’s me. I’m more of the “I may never win but I’ll redline trying” type of person and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m competitive which is why the 17th out of 22 was a hard pill to swallow. But I know it doesn’t define me but for that 40 minutes it definitely said something about me. And I wanted to share this because I sometimes think some women are afraid to say that they care. If you really don’t care where you place, that’s totally fine. I do. Okay, I’ll be drinking one of the beers I won from getting 3rd place at Primalpalooza. Wink wink.